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The Soldier by Rupert Brooke: Summary & Analysis

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Joshua Wimmer

Joshua holds a master's degree in Latin and has taught a variety of Classical literature and language courses.

Rupert Brooke's 'The Soldier' is a patriotic sonnet written before the poet's death in World War I. Explore a summary of the poem, analyze why Brooke used the form of the sonnet, and discover the context of the soldier behind the poetry. Updated: 10/17/2021

'The Soldier' by Rupert Brooke

Written during the early days of World War I, Rupert Brooke's 'The Soldier', also known as 'Nineteen-Fourteen: The Soldier,' is an expression of patriotism and loss felt by many as a result of the Great War. Since it's a sonnet, Brooke's poem isn't very lengthy, but as you'll see in a moment, it's long enough to convey some very touching and inspiring sentiments.

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.

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  • 0:05 ''The Soldier'' by…
  • 1:21 Analysis: Dust to Dust
  • 2:33 The Immortal Sonnet
  • 3:47 Context: The Real Soldier
  • 5:03 Lesson Summary
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Analysis: Dust to Dust

You've most likely heard the phrase 'Home is where the heart is.' But you've probably never heard someone express the sentiment quite as literally as Brooke did in 'The Soldier.' In his sonnet, the poet ties his entire being, physical and mental, to England, making the two practically inseparable even in death.

Many of us are familiar with the concept of 'Ashes to ashes; dust to dust.' This expresses the Judeo-Christian idea that since we're formed from the dust of the Earth, we're bound to return to it in death. In Brooke's thinking, then, since he was 'A dust whom England bore…' his final resting place even in 'some corner of a foreign field' would be 'for ever England.'

Of course, it's not just his physical 'body of England's' that carries with it the presence of the poet's homeland. Brooke asserts that even 'the thoughts by England given' would linger long after his death and recall the many cherished 'sights and sounds' of home. And whether we believe in any notion of the afterlife or not, it's evident from the poem's continued existence that Brooke and the England of his day have achieved some level of immortality.

The Immortal Sonnet

In the minds of many writers, their art is their surest way to immortality, and often this means participating in a literary tradition that's already been immortalized. For Brooke, this meant 'The Soldier' and other poems in his sonnet cycle by the same name already had a leg-up by being written in the tradition of Shakespeare, Spenser, and countless others who've made the sonnet such a timeless staple of English poetry.

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