The Romantic Treatment of War in Brooke’s The Soldier

“The Soldier” by Rupert Brooke is a war sonnet which is read as a glorification of war. His early death in 1915 canonized him as an iconic hero of the first phase of World War I, who symbolized the potential of all the gifted young people destroyed by the conflict. Brooke’s personal war experience consisted of one day of limited military action with the Hood Battalion during the evacuation of Antwerp.

Rupert Brooke

This romantic vision of death combines the ideas of spiritual purification and resurrection, Neo-pagan immortalizing of fallen epic warriors, and anglicizing a foreign soil by adding the dust of dead English soldiers to it, under the overarching theme of the superiority of English heritage and personal loyalty to it.

Consequently the poem conveys highly sentimentalized themes of patriotism, romantic death, and idealism that were initially shared by many thousands of young men who blithely went into the war.

Brooke observes the sonnet form (14 lines of iambic pentameter, divided into an octave and sestet). However the octave follows the Shakespearean rhyme scheme ababcdcd, while the sestet follows the Petrarchan efgefg. He also deviates slightly from the traditional thematic divisions where the octave and sestet state or express a question or predicament and its resolution, respectively. in “The Soldier” the octave and sestet both enjoin the reader to conceptualize the blissful death of the fallen soldier. This romantic vision of death combines the ideas of spiritual purification and resurrection, Neo-pagan immortalizing of fallen epic warriors, and anglicizing a foreign soil by adding the dust of dead English soldiers to it, under the overarching theme of the superiority of English heritage and personal loyalty to it.

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