Rupert Brooke (1887-1915)

Poetry on Peace

Rupert Brooke (1887-1915):

Peace & The Soldier (1914)
Sonnet from the South Seas (1914)

Edited by Peter Y. Chou


Now, God be thanked Who has matched us with His hour,
    And caught our youth, and wakened us from sleeping,
With hand made sure, clear eye, and sharpened power,
    To turn, as swimmers into cleanness leaping,
Glad from a world grown old and cold and weary,
    Leave the sick hearts that honour could not move,
And half-men, and their dirty songs and dreary,
    And all the little emptiness of love!

Oh! we, who have known shame, we have found release there,
    Where there's no ill, no grief, but sleep has mending,
        Naught broken save this body, lost but breath;
Nothing to shake the laughing heart's long peace there
    But only agony, and that has ending;
        And the worst friend and enemy is but Death.

The War Sonnets: I. Peace (1914)



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 War Sonnets: V. The Soldier (1914)


(Suggested by some of the Proceedings
of the Society for Psychical Research)

Not with vain tears, when we're beyond the sun,
    We'll beat on the substantial doors, nor tread
    Those dusty high-roads of the aimless dead
Plaintive for Earth; but rather turn and run
Down some close-covered by-way of the air,
    Some low sweet alley between wind and wind,
    Stoop under faint gleams, thread the shadows, find
Some whispering ghost-forgotten nook, and there

Spend in pure converse our eternal day;
    Think each in each, immediately wise;
Learn all we lacked before; hear, know, and say
    What this tumultuous body now denies;
And feel, who have laid our groping hands away;
    And see, no longer blinded by our eyes.

The South Seas: 12. Sonnet (1914)

Rupert Brooke (1887-1915),
Collected Poems of Rupert Brooke,
(With an Introduction by George Edward Woodberry)
Dodd, Mead, & Co., NY, 1915, pp. 101, 105, 126

Notes: Brooke was born at Rugby, August 3, 1887. A Fellow of King's College, Cambridge (1913). He went on the Antwerp Expedition (Oct. 1914), and sailed with the British Mediterranean Expeditionary Force (Feb. 28, 1915). He died in the Aegean on April 23, 1915. George Edward Woodberry writes in his introduction to The Collected Poems of Rupert Brooke (1915): "There is a grave in Scyros, amid the white and pinkish marble of the isle, the wild thyme and the poppies, near the green and blue waters. There Rupert Brooke was buried. Thither have gone the thoughts of his countrymen, and the hearts of the young especially. It will long be so. For a new star shines in the English heavens." Margaret Lavington's biographical note of Brooke (London, October 1915) mentions that an appreciation appeared in the London Times after Brooke's death by W.S.C.: "the poet-soldier told with all the simple force of genius the sorrow of youth about to die, and the sure, triumphant consolations of a sincere and valiant spirit. He expected to die; he was willing to die for the dear England whose beauty and majesty he knew; and he advanced toward the brink in perfect serenity, with absolute conviction of the rightness of his country's cause and a heart devoid of hate for fellowmen." W.S.C. was Winston Spencer Churchill, a personal friend and warm admirer of the poet. It's interesting how Brooke's poems of WW I inspired Churchill's courageous leadership as British Prime Minister some 25 years later during World War II. Such is the enduring flame of poetry that nourishes the human spirit which William Faulkner proclaims as "the poet's duty whose voice helps mankind endure and prevail". (1950 Nobel Lecture)

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© Peter Y. Chou,
P.O. Box 390707, Mountain View, CA 94039
email: (3-14-2003)