Friday, 2 December 2016

Fragment || Rupert Brooke

Rupert Brooke is most well known for his patriotic poems from the First World War, some of which are fantastic. However, my favourite of his works is one that doesn't always show up in various collections: Fragment.

Fragment was written on the journey to Gallipoli, shortly before Brooke's death from septicaemia in April 1915. It marks a change in his war poetry and has a much more sombre tone, yet still maintains his typical lyricism. The final stanza I think is particularly beautiful, but read retrospectively with the knowledge of his death, it is also extremely sad.

The whole poem has an eerie feel, from the 'cloudy moonless sky' to the 'perishing things and strange ghosts' of the final stanza. He alludes to the randomness of war, the brutality and the futility of it: 'thought little of, pashed, scattered...' Perhaps the overriding thing I feel when reading this poem is loneliness and that feeling of being alone in a crowd of people. Brooke is on the outside looking in, having had a realisation that war does not allow idealism, and slowly coming to terms with the knowledge that he, or his fellow soldiers may, or will, die.

A long time ago I read Jill Dawson's brilliant novel The Great Lover which is a fictional exploration of the rumours that Brooke fathered a child in Tahiti. I'd barely come across him before this and had misguidedly dismissed him as a somewhat uninteresting war poet, but Dawson's novel opened up a different side of him for me and introduced me to his Grantchester poems. I've had various conversations with writers and readers alike about Brooke and I always find myself defending him. I think it's important to read literature in the context of its own time, not in the context of now, and I often feel that Brooke gets judged harshly on the basis that he was a staunch patriot and perhaps naive and idealistic. I'll always call on this poem as my evidence that things perhaps changed for him on that boat heading for Gallipoli.

What do you think of this poem?

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