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About this poet

English poet Rupert Chawner Brooke was born on August 3, 1887. The son of the Rugby School's housemaster, Brooke excelled in both academics and athletics. He entered his father's school at the age of fourteen. A lover of verse since the age of nine, he won the school poetry prize in 1905.

A year later, he attended King's College, Cambridge, where he was known for his striking good looks, charm, and intellect. While at Cambridge, he developed an interest in acting and was president of the University Fabian Society. Brooke published his first poems in 1909; his first book, Poems, appeared in 1911. While working on his dissertation on John Webster and Elizabethan dramatists, he lived in the house that he made famous by his poem "The Old Vicarage, Grantchester."

Popular in both literary and political circles, he befriended Winston Churchill, Henry James, and members of the Bloomsbury Group, including Virginia Woolf. Although he was popular, Brooke had a troubled love life. Between 1908 and 1912 he fell in love with three women: Noel Olivier, youngest daughter of the governor of Jamaica; Ka Cox, who preceded him as president of the Fabian Society; and Cathleen Nesbitt, a British actress. None of the relationships were long lasting. In 1912, after his third romance failed, Brooke left England to travel in France and Germany for several months.

Upon his return to England, Brooke received a fellowship at King's College and spent time in both Cambridge and London. In 1912 he compiled an anthology entitled Georgian Poetry, 1911-12, with Edward Marsh. The Georgian poets wrote in an anti-Victorian style, using rustic themes and subjects such as friendship and love. While critics viewed Brooke's poetry as too sentimental and lacking depth, they also considered his work a reflection of the mood in England during the years leading up to World War I.

After experiencing a mental breakdown in 1913, Brooke traveled again, spending several months in America, Canada, and the South Seas. During his trip, he wrote essays about his impressions for the Westminster Gazette, which were collected in Letters From America (1916). While in the South Seas, he wrote some of his best poems, including "Tiare Tahiti" and "The Great Lover."

He returned to England at the outbreak of World War I and enlisted in the Royal Naval Division. His most famous work, the sonnet sequence 1914 and Other Poems, appeared in 1915. On April 23, 1915, after taking part in the Antwerp Expedition, he died of blood poisoning from a mosquito bite while en route to Gallipoli with the Navy. He was buried on the island of Skyros in the Aegean Sea.

Following his death, Brooke, who was already famous, became a symbol in England of the tragic loss of talented youth during the war.

Selected Bibliography


Poems (1911)
Georgian Poetry, 1911-1912 (1912)
1914 and Other Poems (1915)
The Collected Poems of Rupert Brooke (1915)
The Collected Poems of Rupert Brooke (1918)
The Poetical Works of Rupert Brooke (1946)


Lithuania: A Drama in One Act (1915)
John Webster and the Elizabethan Drama (1916)
Letters From America (1916)
Democracy and the Arts (1946)
The Prose of Rupert Brooke (1956)
The Letters of Rupert Brooke (1968)
Rupert Brooke: A Reappraisal and Selection From His Writings, Some Hitherto Unpublished (1971)
Letters From Rupert Brooke to His Publisher, 1911-1914 (1975)

Lines Written in Belief That the Ancient Roman Festival of the Dead Was Called Ambarvalia

Swings the way still by hollow and hill,
    And all the world’s a song;
‘She’s far,’ it sings me, ‘but fair,’ it rings me.
    ‘Quiet,’ it laughs, ‘and strong!’

Oh! spite of the miles and years between us,
    Spite of your chosen part,
I do remember; and I go
    When laughter in my heart.

So above the little folk that know now,
    Out of the white hill-town,
High up I clamber; and I remember;
    And watch the day go down.

Gold is my heart, and the world’s golden,
    And one peak tipped with light;
And the air lies still about the hill
    With the first fear of night;

Till mystery down the soundless valley
    Thunders, and dark is here;
And the wind blows, and the light goes,
    And the night is full of fear.

And I know, one night, on some far height,
    In the tongue I never knew,
I yet shall hear the tidings clear
    From them that were friends of you.

They’ll call the news from hill to hill,
    Dark and uncomforted,
Earth and sky and the winds; and I
    Shall know that you are dead.

I shall not hear your trentals,
    Nor eat your arval bread;
For the kin of you will surely do
    their duty by the dead.

Their little dull greasy eyes will water;
    They’ll paw you, and gulp afresh.
They’ll sniffle and weep, and their thoughts will creep
    Like flies on the cold flesh.

They will put pence on your grey eyes,
    Bind up your fallen chin,
And lay you straight, the fools that loved you
    Because they were your kin.

They will praise all the bad about you,
    And hush the good away,
And wonder how they’ll do without you,
    And then they’ll go away.

But quieter than one sleeping,
    And stranger than of old,
You will not stir for weeping,
    You will not mind the cold;

But through the night the lips will laugh not,
    The hands will be in place,
And at length the hair be lying still
    About the quiet face. 

With sniffle and sniff and handkerchief,
    And dim and decorous mirth,
With ham and sherry, they’ll meet to bury
    The lordliest lass of earth. 

The little dead hearts will tramp ungrieving
    Behind lone-riding you,
The heart so high, the heart so living,
    Heart that they never knew.

I shall not hear your trentals,
    Nor eat your arval bread.
Nor with smug breath tell lies of death
    To the unanswering dead.

With snuffle and sniff and handkerchief,
    The folk who loved you now
Will bury you, and go wondering
    Back home. And you will rot.

But laughing and half-way up to heaven,
    With wind and hill and star,
I yet shall keep, before I sleep,
    Your Ambarvalia. 

This poem is in the public domain.

This poem is in the public domain.

Rupert Brooke

Rupert Brooke

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. 

by this poet

All night the ways of Heaven were desolate,
    Long roads across a gleaming empty sky.
    Outcast and doomed and driven, you and I,
Alone, serene beyond all love or hate,
Terror or triumph, were content to wait,
    We, silent and all-knowing. Suddenly
    Swept through the heaven low-crouching from on high,

When Beauty and Beauty meet
   All naked, fair to fair,
The earth is crying-sweet,
   And scattering-bright the air,
Eddying, dizzying, closing round,
   With soft and drunken laughter;
Veiling all that may befall

Where Beauty and Beauty met,

I have been so great a lover: filled my days
So proudly with the splendour of Love's praise,
The pain, the calm, and the astonishment,
Desire illimitable, and still content,
And all dear names men use, to cheat despair,
For the perplexed and viewless streams that bear
Our hearts at random down the dark of life.