"Murray is the best kind of literary biographer" – The Financial Times.
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Winner of the 2015 Basil Bunting Award for poetry

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Rupert Brooke is Dead

The grave of Rupert Brooke on Skyros
This Thursday (23rd April) is (in addition to being Shakespeare's birthday and mine) the 100th anniversary of the death of Rupert Brooke in 1915.  Probably his most famous words are those about the corner of a foreign field that is for ever England and here it is on the Greek island of Skyros where he died from a blood infection on his way to the Dardanelles.  Plonked in the middle of an olive grove, this marble and wrought iron tomb seems to belong to a home counties churchyard not this plain, rough olive grove on a Greek island and it was a strange experience to visit it back in May 2009.

His obituary in The Times written by Winston Churchill (Brooke was very well-connected) began with a fine rhetorical flourish: "Rupert Brooke is dead."  The Brooke myth was born and the infinitely complex man behind that golden Apollo image remains fascinating.  The poet Isaac Rosenberg (who did not have such famous and influential friends) demurred at Brooke's "begloried sonnets" and I will be exploring some of these aspects of Brooke's reputation in a lecture to the Dymock Poets Association in early October.

3 comments:

Andrew said...

I suppose there's more than a little case for saying it was precisely because of people like Winston Churchill that Brooke & others more 'ordinary' died in their millions.

"I love this war. I know it's smashing and shattering the lives of thousands every moment, and yet I enjoy every moment of it."

That's a good psychotic quote by Churchill about WW1.

Andrew said...

Sorry about the blunderbuss nature of the post btw! Churchill as one of nature's great asshole/'heroes' warrants it though.

Nicholas Murray said...

And Gallipoli, where Brooke was heading, was not exactly his finest hour.