Patriot or troubled young man with suicidal impulses. Talented poet struggling to find his own voice or unoriginal throwback to a bygone era. Personification of honorable self-sacrifice or of deluded self-indulgence.
Rupert Brooke, the lyric poet whoMorePatriot or troubled young man with suicidal impulses. Talented poet struggling to find his own voice or unoriginal throwback to a bygone era. Personification of honorable self-sacrifice or of deluded self-indulgence. Rupert Brooke, the lyric poet who eschewed the tenets of modernism coming into vogue at the time of his death in 1915, can nonetheless be viewed as the quintessentially modern man: conflicted, unsure of his identity, psychologically complex.
William E. Laskowski accommodates Brookes many inherent contradictions, as well as the polarized critical views of his brief literary career, in this fair-minded appraisal of Brookes life and work. Brookes poetic appeal has always depended on his legend. Directly following his untimely death from blood poisoning while serving during World War I, his life and his poetry were viewed as the embodiment of heroic youth.
Brookes poetry, particularly the war sonnets written in the year before he died, glorified physical adventurousness and extolled the ideal of self-sacrifice for a greater good. Defenders of World War I used the example of Brooke and his poems to justify the loss of so many young men to a conflict its detractors perceived as jingoistic and morally dubious.
In the years leading up to World War II, critics began to turn the legend of the charming and virtuous Brooke on its ear, creating what Laskowski calls a countermyth: Brookes willingness to give his life to the war was interpreted as a death wish rooted in an imbalanced psyche, his love of adventure perceived as a desire to escape the responsibilities of adulthood. His poetry, though forward looking in its realism and relatively informal diction, was attacked for itsembrace of glory in death and war, an idea antithetical to the self-doubting and skeptical modernists who now ruled the day.
Brooke, Laskowski writes, came to represent the dark side of Peter Pan, the hero of his favorite play: a youth so afraid of the commitment and responsibility