Rupert Brooke wasn't a war poet like Wilfred Owen or Siegfried Sassoon, soldiers who confronted the horrors of war and affected their nation's conscience. Instead Brooke's work, written in the early months of the war when success was still in sight, was full of cheerful friendship and idealism, even when faced by potential death. The war sonnets swiftly became focal points for patriotism, thanks largely to their promotion by church and government - 'The Soldier' formed part of the 1915 Easter Day service in St. Paul's Cathedral, the focal point of British religion - while the image and ideals of a brave youth dying young for his country were projected onto Brooke's tall, handsome stature and charismatic nature.
Or A Glorifier of War?
While Brooke's work is often said to have either reflected or affected the mood of the British public between late 1914 and late 1915, he was also - and often still is - criticised. For some, the 'idealism' of the war sonnets is actually a jingoistic glorification of war, a carefree approach to death which ignored the carnage and brutality. Such comments usually date from later in the war, when the high death tolls and unpleasant nature of trench warfare became apparent, events which Brooke wasn't able to observe and adapt to. However, studies of Brooke's letters reveal that he certainly was aware of the desperate nature of some conflict, and many have speculated on the impact further time would have had as both his skill as a poet, and the war itself, developed.
Although few of his poems are considered great, when modern literature looks away from World War One there is a definite place for Brooke and his works from Grantchester and Tahiti. He is classed as one of the Georgian poets, whose verse style had noticeably progressed from previous generations, and as a man whose true masterpieces were still to come. Indeed, Brooke contributed to two volumes entitled Georgian Poetry in 1912. Nevertheless, his most famous lines will always be those opening 'The Soldier', words still occupying a key place in military tributes and ceremonies today.
Notable Family of Rupert Brooke:
Father: William Brooke
Mother: Ruth Cotterill, née Brooke