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The Soldier by Rupert Brooke

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Nuha Guljar

on 13 March 2013

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Transcript of The Soldier by Rupert Brooke

Structure of the poem The End That there’s some corner of a foreign field that is forever England Extarct from Winston Churchill's Obituary for Rupert Brooke Main Themes of the poem Main Strcuture Overall context of the poem When did Rupert Brooke write The Soldier? The Soldier was written while Brooke was on leave of Christmas, 1914. It was the final sonnet in a collection of five that he entitled "1914" - his reflections on the outbreak of war. They were first published in the magazine New Numbers in January 1915. Nineteen days before Brooke's death, on Easter Sunday, Dean William Ralph Inge had read The Soldier from the pulpit of St Paul's as part of his sermon. The poem was published in the Times the next day to great acclaim - as, shortly after, was Winston Churchill's obituary of Brooke. This sonnet finds a soldier speculating as he goes away to war about his possible death, which he feels should not be mourned, but understood as part of a selfless tribute to his much-loved England. The sonnet is of appropriate use because sonnets are associated with 'love.' The poem’s voice is that of the unnamed and anonymous soldier. This soldier therefore seems to speak not only for himself, but for other soldiers too. This is, literally, a poem about selflessness: the idealised selflessness of the soldier who sacrifices his life for his country. Again, patriotism is a central theme and many see this poem as the antithesis to 'Dulce et Decorum Est' by Wilfred Owen, due to the poem not presenting the violent, barbaric and animalistic nature of war. “The Soldier” is written in fourteen line petrarchan / Italian sonnet form. which is divided into an octave, and then followed by a sestet. Regarding the rhyme scheme, the octave follows the Shakespearean / Elizabethan form (abab cdcd) , while the sestet follows the Petrarchan / Italian form (cde cde). The volta, known as the shift or point of dramatic change, occurs after the fourth line where Brooke goes from describing the death of the soldier, to his life accomplishments. This sonnet encompasses the memoirs of a fallen soldier who declares his patriotism to his homeland by declaring that his sacrifice shall be the eternal ownership of England, of a small portion of land he has died upon. The poem appears to not follow the normal purpose of a Petrarchan / Italian sonnet either. It does not truly go into detail about a problem that causes doubt/conflict within the speaker, which is customary with this form. But, the atmosphere remains constantly in the blissful state of the English soldier. The true image that Brooke is portraying is of the brave soldier. This is the incorporation of the theme of 'idealism', as this is very much the idealistic image of a soldier. If I should die, think only this of me: Brooke's image presents both contrasting ideas of pathos and patriotism. The idea of an unnamed “corner of a foreign field” where the soldier will be buried speaks of the unsung and anonymous nature of death in war. The use of 'some' also potentially shows ignorance. Yet the notion that this small space will “forever” be part of England elevates the sacrifice the soldier makes— as if he has in a small way conquered this land. The soft alliteration of 'f' creates a subdued tone for the reader and
provides a melancholic atmosphere. During the last few months of his life, months of preparation in gallant comradeship and open air, 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 towards the brink in perfect serenity, with absolute conviction of the rightness of his country's cause and a heart devoid of hate for fellow-men.

The thoughts to which he gave expression in the very few incomparable war sonnets which he has left behind will be shared by many thousands of young men moving resolutely and blithely forward in this, the hardest, the cruelest, and the least-rewarded of all the wars that men have fought. They are a whole history and revelation of Rupert Brooke himself. Joyous, fearless, versatile, deeply instructed, with classic symmetry of mind and body, ruled by high undoubting purpose, he was all that one would wish England's noblest sons to be in the days when no sacrifice but the most precious is acceptable, and the most precious is that which is most freely proffered. Original Copy of the poem Background Informationon Rupert Brooke
Rupert Brooke (3 August 1887 – 23 April 1915) was an English poet of the neo Romantic era that essentially 'romanticised' war . Brooke caught the optimism of the opening months of the war with his wartime poems published after his death, which expressed an idealism about war. His works contrasted strongly with poetry published later in the conflict, as well as of the time; for example Rosenberg's 'On Recieving News of the War' which was an Imagist poem which presented the true horrors of war. The vast amount of his work was in the form of sonnets; his most notable being "The Soldier". His premature death in World War One contributed to his fame and idealised image. In effect, 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".

Brooke never experienced front line combat, but he was commissioned into the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve as a temporary Sub-Lieutenant shortly after his 27th birthday. He 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 septicaemia from an infected mosquito bite. This eventually led to his death. Love
Death
Patriotism
Optimism
Idealism
Nature Analysis of the poem The opening clause may be conditional, but Brooke here reflects the contents of many letters home from soldiers to families, filled with the foreboding message about possible death. The use of 'if' shows the mentality that many soldiers had during the war. The soldiers did not want to directly say they were to die to their loved ones back at home. The soldiers understood the psychological effects that were inflicted on them during the war. They did not want to distress their loved ones with agony and pain. Therefore, the use of 'I' provides hope to their family, in that the soldier's status is heightened, conveying their importance. The use of the caesura indicates stress on the phrase 'think only this of me.' This has a patriotic tone, in that the soldiers' loved ones will reflect upon the good things and celebrate the life of the soldier. This provides hope and it creates a 'hero.' The Soldier
by Rupert Brooke
Page 163 “In that rich earth a richer
dust concealed”: Here, Brooke provides emphasis on the theme of nature. The fertile earth of the foreign field (fertile in part because of the dead beneath) has hidden within it the soldier’s body (dust). ‘Dust’ is a common literary metaphor for the body: coming as it does from the funeral oration in the Book of Common Prayer, which speaks of the body returning to the earth, “ashes to ashes, dust to dust”. The adjective of the dead being described as 'richer' contrasts the idea of 'dust' being insignificant. This shows the authorial importance that the soldiers held over the 'true nation' of the 'Great War.' The use of 'concealed' shows that many people were unaware of the 'richer' qualities that
these soldiers held outside of their war service and were
concealed from the longevity of life and purpose. Brooke
is strongly opposing this idea and is stressing that
soldiers hold more importance than the
'rich earth' due to their duties. A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware, England’s abundance and pastoral beauty is emphasised here as a kind gift. Giving is an important and recurrent metaphor for Brooke when writing about soldiers sacrifice— a way of giving meaning to death by placing it in the context of a social exchange. The giving of flowers is considered to be customary for the dead and here flowers are given to 'her' to love. This presents the personification of death as female, holding nurturing and caring qualities for these lifeless soldiers. The concept of death being romanticised as a female can be linked to 'The Bridegroom' by Rudyard Kipling. Flowers present 'beauty' as does carrying out your duty and service for England. Death being described as having 'ways to roam' shows that death 'wanders', as the soldiers once did with their youthful qualities. Death of the soldiers is not to be solemn or bleak. But, it is in fact meant to be celebrated with joy due to the gallant soldiers. A body of England’s The soldier’s body actually belongs in a fundamental way to England; it is hers. This sense of intimate connection — of actually joining with England and becoming 'one' entity— is a key concept in this poem. All soldiers serving England was collectively a 'body.' Here, Brooke wants to represent the close relationship that is formed with fellow soldiers and also the close likening to Englnd during the war. breathing English air,
Washed by the rivers, blest by the suns of home. England is again mentioned. By the increasing repetition of 'English', this poem gains patriotic intensity. Here the pleasant experience of everyday life is described as an English experience. The act of 'breathing English air' creates a sense of nostalgia for these soldiers. 'Air' is taken for granted by many. But, to the soldiers it gave them a reason to live, with the vital sense of 'being free.' Here, even after death, the soldiers will eternally breathe the English air. The body being 'washed' by rivers presents a revival of life (baptism) to the dead, indicating the importance of religion. The symbolism of water can be linked to 'Rain' by Edward Thomas, as holding holy qualities. The shortening of blessed as 'blest' presents the shortening in length of these soldiers' lives and stresses emphasis. The bodies are to be blessed by 'the suns.' A sun symbolises glory and light, as do these soldiers and England. The final mention of “home” in the octet brings us back to the tragic scene described in the first line. And think The sestet presents a change from the octet because it is more speculative about life after death. As an effect, the focus on the 'body' is erradicated and there is greater emphasis on the soul rather than the body. This call to the reader to “think”, or imagine, is appropriate because it engages the reader to feel much like the 'recipient' of this 'letter' as such. The mood of the poem changes to being much more calm and soothing to read. this heart, all evil shed away,
A pulse in the eternal mind, no less The heart here stands as a metaphor for the soul. As the reader, we are asked to imagine this soul after death, when “all evil” or sin has been cast off, and has become part of God himself. The soul now holds this greater power due to serving England and God. The soul is now “a pulse” in the eternal mind of the greater being. The use of 'pulse' is effective because it is rhythmical throbbing of the arteries, as blood is propelled through them; showing the impending beating of the soul. The sound of 'pulse' is much harsher in sound than the other words in this section, isolating it and showing importance. The use of 'no less' shows the wrath of the 'pulse' (soul of the soldier). The soldier has become the upmost symbol of power. It also has the message that serving England 'sheds' all evil. It is like a reincarnation. Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given This line refers back to the octet, where England 'created' the soldier and his thoughts. Now, we are asked to imagine that equally (“no less”) the soul of the soldier gives all its accumulated thoughts of a lifetime in England to God. God is to be given a 'gift', due to providing bliss in the 'idealistic' previous life. Again, Brooke is presenting the idea of giving. England providing 'the thoughts' shows that the soldier would not have 'lived' this afterlife with the exception of these thoughts. Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness, Here, the soldier lists all the wonderful experiences that the soldier has gained from England. The referral of England as a female 'her' shows the partnership she holds with God 'him.' This is a flashback of the great memories the soldier holds. 'Her sights and sounds' presents the soldier becoming aware with the beauty of nature and the world. England opened up the soldiers' eyes and ears to greater things and beyond. The soldier experenced dreams of the happy days of England, which contrasts with the overt concept of the soldiers having experienced 'nightmares.' Again, Brooke is glorifying war. There was laughter in England with the accompaniment of 'friends'. The soldier reminicisces on England holding 'gentleness' and being a source of comfort and a 'confidant' in ways. These pleasant thoughts and memories will be given back to God as the soldier becomes one with Him. in hearts at peace, under an English heaven The poem ends with a startling proposition— the soldier finds rest and peace at last in heaven, but heaven has been transformed by the thoughts and memories that the soldier has given to God. This heaven is now “an English heaven”: the connection with England will remain forever unbroken and eternal. The sonnet’s turn from an idyllic or idealised vision of England to the idea of a transcendent and literally 'heavenly' England is complete. The use of 'under' shows that God will always be watching upon the dead and that finally after the cocophany of violence in war, the 'hearts' are 'at peace.' Here, Brooke is showing his love for the Queen's country. England 'bore' the dust (dead) by piercing them hollow, much like a weapon. England 'shaped' these soldiers to be brave and courageous. England made 'aware' to the soldiers that it is fitting to die for your country - linked to the famous phrase 'Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori' (It is sweet and fitting to die for your country). The use of the commas seperates the triplet of 'bore' 'shaped' and 'made aware' emphasing the point that England has provided many great things to these great soldiers. Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam, First Stanza (Octet) Second Stanza (Sestet)
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