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"The Soldier" is a sonnet by Rupert Brooke written during the first year of the First World War (1914). He speaks in the guise of an English soldier as he is leaving home to go to war. The poem glorifies England during the First World War and represents patriotic ideals by portraying death for one's country as a noble end and England as the noblest country to die for. Through this soldier’s passionate discussion of his relationship to England, the poem implies that people are formed by their home environment and culture, and that their country is something worth defending with their life. Though most people might fear death—particularly of the violent kind that war can bring—the speaker of “The Soldier” is prepared to die because he believes hew would be doing it for his beloved homeland. The speaker thus doesn’t want people to grieve his death. He sees that potential death—in some “foreign field” -as a way of making a small piece of the world “for ever England.” That’s because he sees himself as an embodiment of his nation. In the first stanza (the octave of the sonnet) stanza, he talks about how his grave will be England herself, and what it should remind the listeners of England when they see the grave. In the second stanza, the sestet, he talks about this death (sacrifice for England) as redemption; he will become “a pulse in the eternal mind”. He concludes that only life will be the appropriate thing to give to his great motherland in return for all the beautiful and the great things she has given to him, and made him what he is. The speaker begins by addressing the reader, and speaking to them in the imperative: “think only this of me.” This sense of immediacy establishes the speaker’s romantic attitude towards death in duty. He suggests that the reader should not mourn. Whichever “corner of a foreign field” becomes his grave; it will also become “forever England”. He will have left a monument in England in a foreign land, figuratively transforming a foreign soil to England. The speaker implies that England is mother to him. His love for England and his willingness to sacrifice is equivalent to a son’s love for his mother; but more than an ordinary son, he can give his life to her. The imagery in the poem is typically Georgina. The Georgian poets were known for their frequent mediations in the English countryside. England’s “flowers”, “her ways to roam”, and “English air” all represent the attitude and pride of the youth of the pre-industrial England; many readers would excuse the jingoistic them of this poem if they remember that this soldier’s bravery and sense of sacrifice is far better than the modern soldier and warfare in which there is nothing grand about killing people with automated machine guns! The soldier also has a sense of beauty of his country that is in fact a part of his identity. In the final line of the first stanza, nature takes on a religious significance for the speaker. He is “washed by the rivers”, suggesting the purification of baptism, and “blest by the sun of home.” In the second stanza, the sestet, the physical is left behind in favour of the spiritual. If the first stanza is about the soldier’s thought of this world and England, the second is about his thoughts of heaven and England. The images and praises of England run through both the stanzas. In the first stanza Brooke describes the soldier’s grave in a foreign land as a part of England; in the second, that actual English images abound. The sights, sounds, dreams, laughter, friends, and gentleness that England offered him during his life till this time are more than enough for him to thank England and satisfactorily go and die for her. The poet elaborates on what England has granted in the second stanza; ‘sights and sounds’ and all of his “dreams.” A “happy” England filled his life with “laughter” and “friends”, and England characterized by “peace” and “gentleness”. It is what makes English dust “richer” and what in the end guarantees “hearts at peace, under an English Heaven.”
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