The Book of Sonnet Sequences

By Houston Peterson | Go to book overview

XVII -- RUPERT BROOKE

[1887-1915]

THE post-war reaction has temporarily obscured the name of Rupert Brooke and now it is often said that his famous group of sonnets, "1914," was "not so much a great poem as a great piece of war propaganda" and actually inferior to some of his earlier work. He himself was the very dream of what a poet should be, so attractive, handsome, and brilliant a figure that the legend of him may well outlive the memory of his verses.

He was born at Rugby, his father being assistant master of the school. There he was educated and later at King's College, Cambridge, where he founded the Marlowe Dramatic Society and took the classical tripos in 1909. Two years later his Poems appeared as well as the first volume of Georgian Poetry which he had suggested. After some time spent in Germany and Italy, he returned to live near Cambridge, at the Old Vicarage, Grantchester, which is the subject of one of his most charming poems. It was here that he wrote his excellent dissertation for a Cambridge fellowship on John Webster and the Elizabethan Drama which is evidence, with some of his book reviews, that he might have become one of the leading critics of his generation. In 1913 he started on a trip around the world, stopping off in America and the South Seas where he wrote Retrospect, the amusing Heaven, and The Great Lover, a catalogue of his passions for all homely and simple and earthy things.

Returning to England shortly before the outbreak of the war, Brooke enlisted as a matter of course ("Well, if Armageddon's on, I suppose one should be there.") and received a commission in the Royal Naval Division. He took part in the disastrous expedition to Antwerp and early

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