Friday, October 06, 2006

"For ever England..."

One of my favorite poets, is Rupert Brooke.
I happened upon the poetry of Rupert Brooke in an old old (truly ancient) used bookstore in a serene corner of Vancouver Island... something about this aged, sepia-colored, hardcover beauty of a book made me feel it had been abandoned by someone else and left there especially for me to find. The rest of the day I was on the beach with it, and each new page further convinced me that I had stumbled upon greatness. Each phrase carried a thoughtful hush along with it, and I felt that to breathe was an interruption. Time and time again I have been brought back to the poetry of Brooke, and this collection has become one of my treasures. Someone abandoned it for me to find, and yet it has become something I would run back into a burning house to retrieve.
These are brief poems about love and longing, doubts, serenity, nature and goodness, frivolity, victory and jealousy, and stirring wartime sonnets that express a noble idealism in the face of death. These latter are grouped under the author's title of "1914" and are his most well-known series, perhaps not only because of their perfection, but also because of their prophetic nature.

Brooke lived a brief but eventful life (1887-1915). He was brutally good-looking.
Thick, wavy hair. Lamp-lit blue eyes. With the outbreak of World War 1, he was commissioned in England's Royal Navy, and took part in a disastrous expedition at Antwerp which ended in retreat.
At the age of 27, he died from blood-poisoning on board a French hospital ship off the coast of Skyros, Greece. He was buried at night, by torchlight, in an olive grove about a mile inland. Reportedly, if you go there you will find a little wooden cross with just his name and the date of his birth and his death marked on it in black. The fifth poem (entitled The Soldier) in Brooke's sonnet sequence begins... "If I should die, think only this of me: That there's some corner of a foreign field that is for ever England."

The back cover of my Dodd Mead first edition says, “If your criterion of a poet be that he should posess fire, a joy in life, a classical taste, an Hellenic eye for beauty and grace, a sense of the lovely, and be able to differentiate that best of all things, Love. from that worst travesty, Sentimentalism, you will be among those who will turn for solace and true enjoyment to Rupert Brooke.”
-- S.P.B. Mais

And just tonight, in doing some research for this blog posting, I have found out that there is a book out there, entitled, The Letters of Rupert Brooke, and [hence]… I’ve gotta have it. I’ve gotta find it.
To read some of Brooke’s work, for yourself, here is an excellent site.
To read a former blog of my own, discussing one of his poems, click here.

In the meantime, Puddlers, I wish you a great Thanksgiving Day [Canada] and Columbus Day [U.S.A.] weekend.
To all others, the same. → A great weekend.



patricia said...

Amazing. He's my favourite WWI poet. I discovered him when I was taking a first year English course at McMaster University in Hamilton. My prof was a delightful fellow, I believe from South Africa. He was tall and gangly, and had the longest, skinniest fingers I had ever seen. And one of the kindest, sweetest men I have ever met. I used to draw cartoons of him all the time, and some of them ended up in the University paper, The Silhouette. Thankfully he had a great sense of humour.

Anyway, he worshipped the WWI poets, and was such a sensitive soul, that whenever he recited any of the poetry, his voice would crack, and he would quiver and start to tear up. He used to to the same thing whenever he read from Oliver Twist.

Thanks for the lovely post, and for reminding me of that charming, gentle professor.

cipriano said...

Oh, so lovely to trip the gear of another Brooke afficionado.
Isn't he just a gem?
Siegried Sassoon, another great WWI poet.
But Brooke is better. I mean, not so much "better" but I like him more.
There is no such thing as objectively betterer or worserer, in poetry.
That is what poetic license is all about.
Refreshing to hear from you Patricia, as always.
You are, ever and always, a burst of Febreze© in an alleyway of rotting garbage, sort of like.