BROOKE’S POETIC STYLE
Rupert Brooke’s sonnets are graceful and lyrical in nature. All the five sonnets of his 1914 collection represent his highly intellectual and refined response to the Great War. An air of moral crisis together with the society’s concerns also gets reflected through his sonnets. In the poem “The Soldier”, Brooke has used the Petrarchan or the Italian sonnet form comprising an octave and a sestet. However, the rhyme scheme of the octave follows the Shakespearean pattern (ababcdcd) whereas the sestet follows the Italian rhyme scheme. The use of “I” in the poem is technically employed by Brooke for it stood for all those soldiers who are fighting for their country leaving behind their loved ones. It binds together all those who are directly or indirectly involved with the War. In the first line of the poem, “If I should die, think only this of me” the use of caesura is indicative of the stress that Brooke put on the patriotic spirit of the soldier who willingly gives away his life and hence deserves admiration from the society as well as family.
Brooke uses metaphors/imagery, personification, etc. in the poem to highlight the meaning and importance of death set against the social and moral obligation of the soldier. He uses repetition as a tool to emphasise the patriotic spirit of the poem. Certain words in the poem like ‘some corner’ represent uncertainty bringing out the extent to which the soldiers risk their lives in places unknown. The graveness of the octave is shifted to a merrier note in the sestet (second stanza). Images used in the last three lines of the poem denotes Brooke’s optimistic attitude to the sacrifices of the soldiers:
Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day; And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness, In hearts at peace, under an English heaven. By using personification in this line:
“A pulse in the eternal mind, no less”,
Brooke aims to hint that the country will forever remember the soldier who died fighting for it. The dead soldier will receive his reward in the sense that England’s memory or in a sense, history will forever commemorate those soldiers who have devoted their lives for the good of the nation. And, perhaps Brooke means ‘peace’ under an ‘English heaven’ in this context. It can be seen that Brooke uses “I” in connection to its collective use for it relates the soldier with the nation at large.
About Brooke’s poetic techniques and language, it can be concluded by mentioning his elegant use of symbolism added with the lyrical tunes, to be of mature kind and an indication of his technical accomplishment.