Rupert Brooke (1887-1915)
Endowed with a sunny personality and strikingly good-looking, made even more famous by his Byronic death on a Greek island, in his early poems he welcomed the coming of a war that he would have certainly described with less romantic enthusiasm and more mature disillusionment had he lived longer. Born at Rugby, Rupert Brooke studied at King's College, Cambridge. He published his first volume, Poems, in 1911 in the style of the Georgian School. At the outbreak of the war, full of enthusiasm he enlisted at once as an officer, joined the Dardanelles expedition and died of blood poisoning, on the island of Skyros, on April 23rd, 1915.
He was strikingly handsome and good-looking which, together with his fervent idealism and legendary death, turned him into a romantic symbol of soldier-poet.
If 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
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.
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.
The poem expresses what Englishmen generally felt in the autumn of 1914, a sense of patriotism in face of the enemy and in defense of their country, and the idealization of those who died in battle. It does not describe anything precise, but only presents a vague generalization of the "war, sacrifice, glory" equation, which so deeply affected the young people of those first years.
The form itself reflects an abstract view of the war, with no hint at actual horrors por at death, except for the death of the poet himself who, in his romantic idealization, pretends that the earth of the "foreign field" where he lies will be "for ever England".