1914 and Other Poems (1914)
This poem is noted for its lyricism which, together with his handsome appearance and premature death, made Brooke a favourite poet among the young people of his generation.
TextIf I should die, think only this of me:
That there's some corner of a foreign field
That is for ever 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 suns of home.
TranslationSe dovessi morire, pensa solo questo di me: che c’è qualche angolo di una terra straniera che sarà per sempre Inghilterra. In quella ricca terra ci sarà nascosta una cenere più ricca; una cenere che l’Inghilterra ha partorito, a cui ha dato forma, che ha reso consapevole di se stessa, a cui ha dato, un tempo, i propri fiori da amare, le sue strade da percorrere, un corpo che appartiene all’Inghilterra, che ha respirato aria inglese, percorsa da fiumi e benedetta dai raggi del Sole della propria patria.
CommentBrooke addresses the reader back home and at the same time he is there: there is a lyrical eye.
This solider is born in England and he was educated to English values, therefore he is constitutionally a hero who celebrates the country he belongs to.
His dust is richer because he died as a hero.
This sonnet celebrates in fact the country, represented by the soldier, its beauty and the glorious values he has learnt – he embodies the best values of it and at the same time he glorifies this so worth loving country through his heroic deeds –.
The earth of a foreign land is therefore made better by his own dust.
From line 5 to line 8 there is a fundamental idyllic dimension of those who have enjoyed the beauty and exclusiveness of England with its superior values.
Between the soldier and his country there is in fact a spiritual legacy (ITA: eredità), an immortal legacy that is expressed in the following lines of the second stanza.
TextAnd 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.
TranslationE pensa che questo cuore, liberatosi dal male terreno, come a un battito nella mente eterna, non di meno restituirà da qualche parte i valori che l’Inghilterra gli ha regalato; i suoi paesaggi e suoni; i giorni felici dei sogni (di quando eravamo in patria); e le risate, imparate dagli amici; e la gentilezza, appresa nei nostri cuori (in un periodo di pace nell’unica dimensione possibile) sotto un cielo inglese.
CommentIt is the poet’s a legacy, but also a legacy between any English soldier and their country: man-country/ man-fatherland is exclusive tie celebrated here.
The immense value of this English legacy is a Kipling’s echo.
This celebrated tie can be understood in the only possible dimension of death: a dead soldier is bound to resurrect, since the tie is so spiritual to give rise to resurrection.
• The natural consequence of this glorious tie is resurrection: he will be rewarded for having died in war. Here the poet is talking about God’s grace: he is blessed in God’s grace because he died in war. In these lines the British, who have learnt those values, are presented in a unique condition.
• Gentleness means cultural superiority.
• Brooke represents this soldier as the hero, the spiritual link between him and the country and an image of death that is no physical suffering – the beautiful death of the hero –: it is dealt in almost abstract terms.