Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Happy Birthday, Rupert

Today, in 1887, Rupert Brooke was born in Warwickshire, England. He published his first collection of poems in 1911, and it was hugely popular (find his works here). When World War I broke out he wrote to a friend, "Well, if Armageddon's on, I suppose one should be there," and joined up. He died in 1915 of blood poisoning from an infected mosquito bite and is buried on Skyros, a lonely Greek island off which he died, as described by his friend, the composer Denis Browne, who himself died two months later:
he died, with the sun shining all round his cabin, and the cool sea-breeze blowing through the door and the shaded windows. No one could have wished for a quieter or a calmer end than in that lovely bay, shielded by the mountains and fragrant with sage and thyme.
He published only 87 poems, including five war sonnets, of which the most famous begins "If I should die, think only this of me; / That there's some corner of a foreign field / That is for ever England.") and this:


Down the blue night the unending columns press
In noiseless tumult, break and wave and flow,
Now tread the far South, or lift rounds of snow
Up to the white moon's hidden loveliness.

Some pause in their grave wandering comradeless,
And turn with profound gesture vague and slow,
As who would pray good for the world, but know
Their benediction empty as they bless.

They say that the Dead die not, but remain
Near to the rich heirs of their grief and mirth.
I think they ride the calm mid-heaven, as these,
In wise majestic melancholy train,
And watch the moon, and the still-raging seas,
And men, coming and going on the earth.

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