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Rupert BrookeA book may be compared to your neighbor; if it be good, it cannot last too long; if bad, you cannot get rid of it too early - Rupert Brooke

Rupert Brooke was born in 1887 in Rugby, England. His father was a housemaster at Rugby School (a private boarding school where, incidentally, the modern-day game of Rugby originated), so Rupert was educated there before going to King's College, Cambridge. He was popular and good-looking, so much so that it is said that William Butler Yeats once described him as "the handsomest young man in England." While Brooke belonged to a literary group known as the Dymock poets - associated with the Gloucestershire village of Dymock - who included in their number Robert Frost and Edward Thomas, he was also well known to some members of the Bloomsbury Group, most notably Virginia Woolf, who he knew from his days at Cambridge.

In 1914, he was commissioned into the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve as a temporary Sub-Lieutenant and took part in one expedition. His most famous work, 1914 and Other Poems, was published in 1915. These poems, written in the early months of the war, inspired patriotism in the British. In March 1915 The Times Literary Supplement quoted two of the sonnets in full, and Sonnet V (see below) was read in St Paul's Cathedral on Easter Day a few weeks later. Whether Brooke's poems would have lost their early enthusiasm as the war progressed (as did the works of Edward Thomas, Robert Graves and Wilfred Owen) can only be guessed at as Brooke, part of an expeditionary force on its way to Gallipolli, contracted blood poisoning from an untreated mosquito bite in February 1915 and died in late April. After his death, he became a symbol to the English of the tragic loss of youth to the war, epitomizing the myth of the young and beautiful fallen warrior.


1914, Sonnet V: The Soldier

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
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.

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 Old Vicarage, Granchester, lines 72-100 (1912)

God! I will pack, and take a train,
And get me to England once again!
For England's the one land, I know,
Where men with Splendid Hearts may go;
And Cambridgeshire, of all England,
The shire for Men who Understand;
And of that district I prefer
The lovely hamlet Grantchester.
For Cambridge people rarely smile,
Being urban, squat, and packed with guile;
And Royston men in the far South
Are black and fierce and strange of mouth;
At Over they fling oaths at one,
And worse than oaths at Trumpington,
And Ditton girls are mean and dirty,
And there's none in Harston under thirty,
And folks in Shelford and those parts
Have twisted lips and twisted hearts,
And Barton men make Cockney rhymes,
And Coton's full of nameless crimes,
And things are done you'd not believe
At Madingley, on Christmas Eve.
Strong men have run for miles and miles,
When one from Cherry Hinton smiles;
Strong men have blanched, and shot their wives,
Rather than send them to St. Ives;
Strong men have cried like babes, bydam,
To hear what happened at Babraham.
But Grantchester! ah, Grantchester!

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This quote & biography originally ran in an issue of BookBrowse's membership magazine. Full Membership Features & Benefits.

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