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Rupert Brooke's The Soldier (Analysis)

Analysis of Rupert Brooke's The Soldier



Rupert Brooke was commissioned as an officer into the Royal Naval Division. He took part in a campaign in Antwerp, which was aborted soon after it began. Brooke was with the British Mediterranean Expeditionary Force sailing for Gallipoli (also known as the Dardanelles Campaign) when he was bit by a mosquito and subsequently contracted blood poisoning. He died on April 23, 1915 (on St. George's Day), at the age of twenty-seven. He was buried on the island of Skyros, in a spot chosen by his good friend William Denis Brown. Brooke was associated with the Georgians, which is a group of pastoral poets; Georgian poetry is characterized by the infusion of nature with nationalist feelings (1).

Rupert Brooke's "The Soldier" was written while he was on leave during the Christmas of 1914, and was originally entitled "The Recruit." It is the final sonnet, in a collection of five sonnets, that he entitled 1914; these sonnets reflect his feelings about the outbreak of WWI. These poems were originally published in the New Numbers magazine in January of 1915; I Peace, II Safety, III The Dead, IV The Dead, V The Soldier (2). This sonnet has the rhyme scheme of abab cdcd efgefg. It is in iambic pentameter; however, the octave (first 8 lines) follows the Shakespearean/Elizabethan sonnet form, while the sestet (the last six lines) follows the Petrarchan/Italian sonnet form. The traditional themes of the octave and sestet are not adhered to in this sonnet; usually, the octave is where the question or dilemma is introduced and the sestet is where that question or dilemma is answered or resolved, but in this sonnet Brooke asks the reader to join him in revering England in all her majesty. This poem came to be associated with the discredited idealistic attitudes of 1914; however, it is distinguished from war propaganda by its personal sentiment, and like it or not this was an attitude that was shared by many people when WWI first started.

The Soldier by Rupert Brooke (text)

The first line of the poem reads like it is a last will and testament or a eulogy, instead of the beginning of a poem; this is how he wants to be remembered. If he dies, his death will not be in vain, because now there is a foreign field that will always belong to England as a result of him being buried there. The narrator makes his burial place less lonely and sad by making it forever a part of England; even though he is far from home, this little piece of land is his personal England. The air of nationalism is clearly evident in these first three lines; the narrator of this poem, which we presume is a soldier, devalues himself in favor of the whole (England).

Rich earth is referring to the soil, which can grow crops and provide minerals .Fertile land is valuable, which gives the owner of that land power, both socially and politically. The earth increases in value and desirability now that the soldier is buried there; over time his body tissue will decompose, leaving only bones, which will eventually turn to dust—since he was neither embalmed nor buried in a coffin. He is of England and she shaped him into the man and soldier that he is, without her he is nothing—nationalism is a major theme throughout this poem. The soldier goes on to compare England to Mother Nature—the epitome of motherhood—when he says that She gave Her flowers for those to enjoy; he is personifying England. She gave him the freedom to be an innocent child, to explore all the wonderful things that She had to offer. The soldier is a living embodiment of England; he breathes English air, because no matter where he goes he brings England with him. He is washed by the rivers of England, which brings to mind the purifying of the body and soul; England's waters purify him and free him from the "dirt of sin (3)." He is blest by the suns of home, meaning his actions in war are sanctioned by England and will be absolved.

All evil is shed away when he dies because he sacrificed himself for England; "whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man" (Genesis 9:6 King James Version). The Eternal mind can be interpreted in a couple of ways: God's mind, heaven; or mankind's mind. His life is reduced to a mere pulse. A pulse is the regular throbbing of the arteries, caused by the successive contractions of the heart. The pulse is the essence of our life force. He will live on in through the Eternal mind. The memory of him and his sacrifice will inspire others to fight for England; thus, he will live on in the minds of the soldiers who follow in his footsteps. His sacrifice will also help to bring peace to England, which makes all the evil that he has done worth it. The poem ends on an uplifting note; his legacy will be peace, laughter, and gentleness.

Analysis of Rupert Brooke's The Soldier Sources

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