Tonight I've been reading a collection of Rupert Brooke's poetry. Brooke is one of 3 British World War I era poets who interest me. Siegfried Sassoon's poetry began the war full of hope and optimism, and then gradually darkened as the war drew on. He survived the war, and wrote wonderful things that understood the jazz age and the coming storm of the second war, and yet he remained in some ways always a war poet. Wilfrid Owen, my favorite of the 3, began the war with talk of hope and valour, but lost his faith in chivalry in the trenches. His work comprehends the betrayal of nobility inherent in war; he was killed before the war ended. Rupert Brooke was an "up and coming" poet before the war began. I was amused at the mixed reviews his
first book of poems got: the Saturday Review implored him to "mar no more trees with writing lovesongs on their barks", but the Daily Chronicle prophesied he would be a poet "and not a little one". But he was a minor poet, in the event--he died of blood poisoning on duty in 1914.
The brief memoir and collected poems are full of promise cut off, and that peculiar ferment of literati which was part of that time and place. His eulogy in 1914, by Churchill, is too full of "noble passage" for my taste.
But I am enchanted by his own verse, as eulogy:
"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 dust a richer dust concealed...."