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The Soldier

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If I should die, think only this of me:
      That there’s some corner of a foreign field
That is for ever England. There shall be
      In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
      Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam;
A body of England’s, breathing English air,
      Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home.

And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
      A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
            Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;
Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
      And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,
            In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.



Poetry Out Loud Note: This poem has had two titles: “The Soldier” and “Nineteen-Fourteen: The Soldier”. The student may give either title during the recitation.

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The Soldier

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  • Few writers have provoked as much excessive praise and scornful condemnation as English poet Rupert Brooke. Handsome, charming, and talented, Brooke was a national hero even before his death in 1915 at the age of twenty-seven. His poetry, with its unabashed patriotism and graceful lyricism, was revered in a country that was yet to feel the devastating effects of two world wars. Brooke's early death only solidified his image as "a golden-haired, blue-eyed English Adonis," as Doris L. Eder notes in the Dictionary of Literary Biography, and among those who lauded him after his death were writers Virginia Woolf and Henry James and British statesman Winston Churchill. In the decades after World War I, however, critics reacted against the Brooke legend by calling his verse foolishly naive and sentimental. Despite such extreme opinions, most contemporary observers agree that Brooke—though only a minor poet—occupies a secure place in English literature as...

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