Rupert Brooke (1887-1915) was the son of a Rugby schoolmaster and
attended school at Rugby and later at King’s College of Cambridge
University. After completing his education, Brooke continued writing
poetry and became one of the founders of the first anthology of Georgian
Poetry. Now little studied, it was a dominant poetic movement of the
time until it was supplanted by Imagism and the High Modernism of T. S.
Eliot, Ezra Pound, and W. B. Yeats. While not as experimental as the
Modernists, the Georgian poets did look to free poetry from the ornate
language of Victorian verse and employ in its place plain and concrete
language. Along with the Georgian poets, Brooke also interacted with
members of the influential Bloomsbury Group, which included such
prominent writers as Virginia Woolf and E. M. Forster. When war broke
out, Brooke enlisted but never saw combat, instead dying of illness in
March 1915 on his way to Gallipoli. Despite this, Brooke became a
touchstone for other WWI poets, who dedicated volumes of verse to him,
wrote essays celebrating his work, and published memoirs of his life.
Rupert Brooke’s most anthologized poetry is often selected to represent
a more inspirational and conventional perspective than the soldier poets
that follow him. The patriotic sensibility in his most famous poem “The
Soldier,” for example, is often contrasted with the disillusionment,
horror, and lack of sentimentality of other WWI poets. This is not
surprising, considering that Brooke did not see combat, but it has had
unfortunate consequences for Brooke’s reputation and much of his best
poetry has been neglected. It is important to see the overt nationalism
of his self-characterization in “The Soldier” as “A body of England’s,
breathing English air, / Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home” in
the context of the rest of the volume, particularly the poems of
1913-1915, when Brooke traveled across North America, to Hawaii, New
Zealand, and finally Tahiti. In the progression of 1914 and other
poems, the certain knowledge and stable geography of “The Soldier”
gives way to the dark scents and murmuring of the “soft Hawaiian sea” in
“Waikiki,” and in “Hauntings,” Brooke presents a less certain vision of
human destiny. In the sonnet’s octave, “a shade, through the toss’d
ranks of mirth and crying / Hungers, and pains, and each dull passionate
mood,— / Quite lost, and all but all forgot, undying,” comes back to
haunt the speaker’s “quietude.” This haunting presence transforms the
speaker himself into a “poor ghost,” one who,
Is haunted by strange doubts, evasive dreams, Hints of a pre-Lethean
life, of men, Stars, rocks, and flesh, things unintelligible, And
light on waving grass, he knows not when, And feet that ran, but
where, he cannot tell.
In this context, Brooke’s celebrations of patriotic duty in war are
tempered by a more reflective and less confident poetic sensibility.
Additional text from Dr. Porter’s Methods of Historical Research course
Although Rupert Brooke (1887-1915) died before ever seeing battle, he was
renowned for his war sonnets. W.B. Yeats noted that Brooke was “handsomest
young man of England,” a fact that may account for some of his fame. Educated
at Cambridge, he became a thespian, scholar, and soldier. Brooke, commissioned
in the Royal Navy, never got to see battle. He died in 1915 at sea from sepsis.
An eerie photograph portrait of the author’s profile, dated 1913, appears opposite
the title page in this edition. Following the title page with publisher information
and the typical copyright statement, we encounter a brief biographical note listing
Brooke’s education and war time experience. His five war sonnets, titled “1914,”
became notable for their romantic and patriotic view of the war.
As a young man, Brooke wrote poems and published in anthologies and periodicals;
his first volume of poetry, simply titled Poems, appeared in 1911 and (according
to a note printed in this edition of 1914 and Other Poems) was reprinted in 1913
and twice in 1915. The contents of this volume are separated into sections beginning
with the war sonnets titled “1914” followed by “The South Seas” and finally “Other Poems.”
The last page of the book lists where the book was printed and contains a small slip
that is taped to the back page, which was to be affixed to the spine of the book.
An original slip is glued on the spine with the title of the collection and the
author’s name and the publisher with a red border. Although this book is technically
a first edition, the presence of two slips suggests it may be a stereotype printing
of a later impression of the first edition. The collection’s pages are roughly cut
and housed inside a hard blue cover.
Find 1914 and Other Poems (First Edition), “1914” Five
Sonnets, The Collected Poems of Rupert Brooke, Friends,
Rupert Brooke: A Memoir, Rupert Brooke’s Death and Burial, and
Rupert Brooke in the UNT Library Catalog.