Saturday, December 27, 2014

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Rupert Brooke: The Soldier

Beano Niblock with a piece from Long Kesh Inside Out. The pieces carries on with the theme of poets from World War 1. Beano Niblock is a former loyalist prisoner. He currently writes poetry, plays and commentary pieces.

Rupert Brooke was born in Rugby, Warwickshire in August 1887.  He was schooled at Rugby Independent School before taking up a residency at Kings College Cambridge.  Whilst there he was elected president of the Fabian Society. 


Quite quickly he became an established poet and subsequently became part of both the Bloomsbury set and the Georgian Poets.  By 1914 he had also become known for his war poetry.  In early 1915 he was given a commission as a temporary Sub Lieutenant within the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve. 

He sailed to the Mediterranean as part of the British Mediterranean Expedition Force.  He was bitten by a mosquito and developed sepsis from which he never recovered.  He died on the 23rd April on board a French Hospital ship whilst on route to Gallipoli.  The boat had been moored near the island of Skyros.  Because the ship had to sail immediately Brooke was buried in an olive grove on the island.

Brooke’s younger brother William was a Second Lieutenant in the 8th Battalion of the London Regiment.  He had only been with the battalion for 3 weeks when he was killed in action at Le Rutiore farm in Northern France in June 1915-two months after Rupert’s death.

Rupert Brooke is remembered as one of the greatest of World War One poets and below is possibly his greatest poem.

Rupert Brooke
The Soldier

IF I should die, think only this of me:
That there’s some corner of a foreign field
That is forever England. There shall be
In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam,
A body of England’s, breathing English air,
Washed by the rivers, blest by the suns of home.
And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;
Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,
In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.

2 comments :

Peter said...

Beano
I never really liked this one. It seems a little too English for my taste as the British military was always multinational. Why do you include it? I much prefer McRae's In Flander's Fields.

Tain Bo said...

Jolly young Rupert the myth and legend has landed upon the Quill the Quill is hardly any richer for the myth concealed. A minor poet elevated to an English legend, there is not much difference in his flowery love poems and this narcissistic pro-war-drivel.

His less than heroic death hardly entitles him to the title of the soldier or as Winston Churchill said in praise of him” he was of classic symmetry of mind and body and all that one could wish of England’s noblest sons to be.” neither leap nor bound there as Hitler thought much the same for his master-race.
Great propaganda but not much depth in his musings even though there are those who would argue his works as significant but that is like saying Hitler was a great painter instead of a mediocre one.

Idealistic and unrealistic his propaganda contributions arise from his privileged life and what better way for a man who was happy frolicking naked with his mates in some idealist country stream to prove his manhood by writing about something he had no experience of war.

Rupert Brooke

Peace

Now, God be thanked Who has matched us with His hour,
And caught our youth, and wakened us from sleeping,
With handmade sure, clear eye, and sharpened power,
To turn, as swimmers into cleanness leaping,
Glad from a world grown old and cold and weary,
Leave the sick hearts that honour could not move,
And half-men, and their dirty songs and dreary,
And all the little emptiness of love!

Oh! we, who have known shame, we have found release there,
Where there’s no ill, no grief, but sleep has mending,
Naught broken save this body, lost but breath;
Nothing to shake the laughing heart’s long peace there
But only agony, and that has ending;
And the worst friend and enemy is but Death.


He suggests at least for him that war is good and exciting taking him away from the dull world of privilege.

Somehow he imagines that his sins will be cleansed and death shall make him pure again. Unlike those that honour could not move he puts himself above those sick, weak cowards.

The quintessential snob moaning about half-men and shame is the war cleansing his own shame and guilt of his homosexual tendencies with the emptiness of love.

If Billy Blogs had penned the sonnets Nineteen Fourteen would they have been received widely or ignored as the ramblings of a commoner. I think he could have just as easily penned those poems sitting on a beach in Tahiti. The poetry gods intervened and there is a wee bit of irony in that the poet soldier made a hero for nothing more than propaganda. The man who poisoned young naïve minds with charming words succumbs to the poison of an insect.