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.
Did you ever have that experience in school where you’re standing in front of the class picking a team for whatever sport you’re playing that day and there’s this kid with an eager expression on his face that says “Pick me! Pick me!”. And for a while you try and ignore him because you don’t think much of his abilities, but eventually you get tired of being looked at expectantly and you go ahead and choose him, just to get it over with.
That’s pretty much how I ended up picking this poem for the War Theme. I must admit I’ve never had much admiration for Rupert Brooke’s work – he’s always struck me as modern poetry’s equivalent of a one man boy band, a kind of Robbie Williams of verse. His poems sound pretty, and are accomplished enough to make for pleasant reading, but they always come across, to me, as outdated and uncompelling. This poem in particular, arguably his most famous, I find both cliched and parochial – it smells vaguely of cheese.
Still, it IS a famous poem. Every time I sat down to think about what other poems might be appropriate for this series it kept popping up. So here it is. Posted as part of the War Theme. Now let’s all try to put it behind us.