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Explain the contemporary popularity of Rupert Brooke's sonnets.

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Natalie Laverick 13CB Explain the contemporary popularity of Rupert Brooke's sonnets. Rupert Brooke's five sonnets, "Peace", "Safety", "The Rich Dead", "The Dead" and "The Soldier", known collectively as "1914", were immensely popular during the First World War, his poems were reprinted, on average, every eight weeks of its duration. Brooke also received great admiration and respect from his contemporaries both during his time as a pre-war poet and after his death. "The Soldier" was read by Dean Inge from the pulpit of St.Pauls on Easter Sunday 1915, D.H. Lawrence exclaimed: "he was slain by bright Pheobus' shaft . . . it was a real climax of his pose . . . O God, O God; it is all too much of a piece: it is like madness." and Winston Churchill wrote his obituary. Churchill described Brooke's sonnets as "incomparable" and written with "genius". The popularity of Brooke's sonnets was rooted in the patriotism and enthusiasm for war they expressed, he saw war as a "glorious game", and adopted an attitude similar to that expressed by Henry Newbolt in his poem "Vitaii Lampada". These are the reasons why his poems where chosen by national leaders and propagandists. Brooke's poetry successfully summed up the national mood in the early war years and he acted as a spokesman for popular attitudes and beliefs about the war; the British people were optimistic it would be short-lived and the Allies victorious. ...read more.


Though Brooke seems to believe death is a good thing, he also outlines that it is not without loss, the dead have lost their future and possible offspring, which is quite a sad thought and presents a more pessimistic attitude than usual "These...gave up the years to be / Of work and joy, and that unhoped serene, / That men call age; and those who would have been, / Their sons, they gave, their immortality." Although his sonnets are religious at times, Brooke never mentions Christian heaven, more of an eternal peace and safety, as in "Safety", and a reward after death for loyalty and heroism, which is presented in "The Rich Dead". This could have allowed his poetry to be appreciated by a variety of faiths. Brooke's 1914 sonnets were never personal, in the sense that no particular people were mourned, but always vague. This meant the poems could be read and appreciated by anyone and, as many people were experiencing similar situations and needed the same kind of comfort, they were universally applicable. This element of his poetry meant that Brooke's sonnets were distinguishable from the typical propaganda poetry of the time, another of the reasons why they experienced such popularity. ...read more.


Any British person could read Brooke's sonnets and make it personal to them in some way. His sonnets effectively encapsulated the spirit of the British people and provided them with hope for victory and even manipulated the traditional view of death in conflict, so that too would be regarded as a victory for England. These aspects combined meant the sonnets were a source of great comfort to many people. The fairly short lengths of the poems, their sonnet structure and the poets use of imagery and flowing rhythm made them easy to read and take in, which allowed them to reach an even greater audience, rather than just the educated. Further into the war however, once people realised, contrary to what they had been told, it was not going to be over by Christmas, the poems lost their power and their popularity waned. The mood reflected in Brooke's early-war sonnets was no longer present; morale was low, due to the lack of progress and introduction of conscription, and the British were far less optimistic. Today, society has changed, the public is far more cynical, to regard death as wonderful seems ridiculous, and poetry no longer exercises such influence or obtains such widespread popularity as in 1914. ...read more.

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