Known for his First World War sonnets, Rupert Brooke was born in Rugby, England, on August 3rd 1887. He attended two independent schools before going to Cambridge. Here he joined various literary groups where he made many friends and developed his interest in writing.
Following a difficult breakup with his girlfriend, Katherine Laird Cox, he went to Germany and then to both Canada and the United States, via the Pacific, where he wrote travel journals. Brooke returned to England just prior to the outbreak of war, and was commissioned into the Royal Naval Division.
One of Brooke’s first experiences of the war, was in the failed expedition in October 1914 to Antwerp. A year later, he would sail to the Dardanelles as part of the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force, but received a mosquito bite and developed sepsis. Whilst receiving treatment on a French hospital ship, Brooke took a turn for the worse and died. His body was subsequently buried in an olive grove on the nearby Greek island of Skyros, where it remains today.
Brooke was one of the few, if not the only poet, to never experience the horrors of trench warfare, his poetry some say, reflects this.
Brooke’s poem, ‘The Soldier‘, was the fifth of five sonnets, all preceded by ‘The Treasure‘ written originally in 1914. It became truly famous when the Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral read it at the Easter Sunday service in 1915, three weeks prior to Brooke’s death.
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.