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'The Soldier'

A WWI-poem by Rupert Brooke





World War 1 in 6 minutes

All Quiet On The Western Front (1979)


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.

Rupert Brooke, 1914


About the poet:

Rupert Brooke was an English poet known for his idealistic war sonnets written during the First World War, especially "The Soldier". He was also known for his boyish good looks, which were said to have prompted the Irish poet W. B. Yeats to describe him as "the handsomest young man in England".

As a war poet Brooke came to public attention in 1915 when The Times Literary Supplement quoted two of his five sonnets ("IV: The Dead" and "V: The Soldier") in full on 11 March and his sonnet "V: The Soldier" was read from the pulpit of St Paul's Cathedral on Easter Sunday (4 April).

He was commissioned into the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve as a temporary Sub-Lieutenant shortly after his 27th birthday and took part in the Royal Naval Division's Antwerp expedition in October 1914.
He sailed with the British Mediterranean Expeditionary Force on 28 February 1915 but developed sepsis from an infected mosquito bite. He died at 4:46 pm on 23 April 1915 in a French hospital ship moored in a bay off the Greek island of Skyros in the Aegean Sea on his way to the landing at Gallipoli.
As the expeditionary force had orders to depart immediately, he was buried at 11 pm in an olive grove on Skyros.
Source: Wikipedia

About the poem:

"Our poem, "The Soldier," begins by talking about the soldier's possible death, but the manner in which these poems explore death is not what we might expect. Indeed, it is not so much a gruesome death on the battlefield or in a trench (a very common theme in much World War I poetry) that preoccupies Brooke as it is the blissful afterlife that soldiers will get to experience when they die. To die in battle for one's country is noble—even honorable—in Brooke's sonnets, but especially so in "The Soldier."

Rupert Brooke wrote "The Soldier" in 1914, just as World War I was about to begin. To cut him some slack, there is no way he could have known what course the war would take, and how horrible it would be. As a matter of fact, nobody could have foreseen just how bad things would get for everyone.

At the beginning of the war, many people in many countries were still quite idealistic, even naïve, about warfare—dying in battle while claiming new land for one's country was still seen as a noble, even heroic thing. The massive death that machine guns, mustard gas, and disease would inflict on millions of young European soldiers was as far from the general public's consciousness as just about anything could be. The simple fact was that wars had never been as bad as World War I was to be.

And that's kind of the point. Brooke's poem reflects this pre-war perspective and is an important counterpoint to much World War I poetry. As such, it gives us some great insight into how people can romanticize war when they haven't yet experienced it. The destruction of this pre-war idealism was almost as significant for Europe as the destruction of so many young lives. For us, Brooke's poem is an important reminder of how we can talk our way into unspeakable horrors with so many beautiful words. So be on the lookout!"
Source: shmoop.com
An analysis of the poem ( shmoop)

Some questions:
  • What is your interpretation of what is going on in the last 6 lines of the poem?
  • Do you think Brooke really believed the things he said in this poem?
    Is it possible that he was being ironic or sarcastic?
    The poem was written i 1914. Do you think this could have influenced Brooke's attitude to war?
  • The title of the poem is certainly very 'military'
    What do you find in the poem which indicates the brutality of war?
  • How is England described in the poem?
  • What do you think the speaker owes his homeland, and why?
  • You have probably read about the social conditions in England in the beginning of the 20th century.
    Do you think the poem gives a realistic and honest impression of this?
  • Why do you think the poem became so popular when it was published?
  • Why do you think this opinion has changed dramatically?


Activities:
  • Study "Dulce set Decorum est" by Wilfred Owen.
    Compare these two poems about the same war.
    What are the obvious differences regarding poetic devices and contents?
    Reflect on the message of the each of the poems, and discuss the irony of the titles.

  • Brooke is a master of poetic devices. Study these two lines from the poem and comment on his use of allitterations and repetition:

    "A body of England's, breathing English air,
    Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home."


    Some suggestions...
    Source: enotes.com

  • Was "The Soldier" simply used as a piece of war propaganda by the authorities?
    Take a look on these war posters and discuss whether you see any possible similarities or not.

  • Writing:
    Compare and contrast how the two poems ("Dulce et Decorum est" and "The Soldier") describe patriotism and war


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oppdatert 15.12.2015






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