Happy Birthday to Rupert Brooke, 3 August 1887 – 23 April 1915. Rupert Brooke was one of England’s finest poets in the early twentieth century. Brooke enlisted at the beginning of the First World War and died in 1915 after developing septicaemia from a mosquito bite. Upon his death Winston Churchill wrote his obituary for the Times. The opening paragraph of the obituary clearly shows Churchill’s admiration: “Rupert Brooke is dead. A telegram from the Admiral at Lemnos tells us that this life has closed at the moment when it seemed to have reached its springtime. A voice had become audible, a note had been struck, more true, more thrilling, more able to do justice to the nobility of our youth in arms engaged in this present war, than any other more able to express their thoughts of self-surrender, and with a power to carry comfort to those who watch them so intently from afar. The voice has been swiftly stilled. Only the echoes and the memory remain; but they will linger.”
While Brooke is often remembered as one of the best poets from the First World War, my personal favourite is “The Hill,” which Brooke wrote in 1910.
Breathless, we flung us on the windy hill,
Laughed in the sun, and kissed the lovely grass.
You said, “Through glory and ecstasy we pass;
Wind, sun, and earth remain, the birds sing still,
When we are old, are old. . . .” “And when we die
All’s over that is ours; and life burns on
Through other lovers, other lips,” said I,
— “Heart of my heart, our heaven is now, is won!”
“We are Earth’s best, that learnt her lesson here.
Life is our cry. We have kept the faith!” we said;
“We shall go down with unreluctant tread
Rose-crowned into the darkness!” . . . Proud we were,
And laughed, that had such brave true things to say.
— And then you suddenly cried, and turned away.