History and English Literature; WW I and Rupert Brooke

To better understand literature it helps if you know about the time when it was written. How did people live? What were their problems and their joys? Some experiences are universal, such as love, others are tied to time.

World War I was a time of horror for the soldiers who had to live or die in the trenches. Children lost their fathers, wives their husbands, mothers their sons. There were brothers and friends lost. Just as brothers, sisters and friends, sons and daughters, fathers and mothers are lost today everywhere where there is conflict and war. In this way war too is a universal topic. You can learn more about WW I at Kahn Academy.


”The Old Vicarage, Grantchester” by Rupert Brooke (read by Tom O’Bedlam)

The full text of the poem and How to Read a Poem from poets.org

Brooke’s poems are today considered to be war poems, but this poem was written before WW I in Berlin, 1912, and he died in 1915, so the poem express his feelings not his experiences.

”English poet Rupert Brooke wrote in an anti-Victorian style, using rustic themes and subjects such as friendship and love, and his poems reflected the mood in England during the years leading up to World War I. ” (from poets.org). He also wrote  The Soldier.

The role of the individual soldier has been changed by modern technology. Previous wars focused more, as in the poem The Soldier, on the individual soldier.  In this poem, why has the speaker gone to war? What is his attitude toward his own country? And what is his attitude toward his enemy?

The Soldier

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.
(The Poem is in the Public Domain)

And of you are interested in going deeper into this poem there is a full lecture by Dr Andrew Barker available.


To learn how this part of England looks today you can watch and listen to

Cambridgeshire Country Walk – Cambridge to Grantchester via the River Cam return.


This post is a collection of digital material which can be used for learning and teaching.

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