On this date in 1887, Rupert Brooke was born in England. The Cambridge-educated poet became a celebrity in England among his Fabian Society peers. W.B. Yeats famously dubbed him "the handsomest young man in England." Bertrand Russell, in his autobiography, recorded there was "no humbug" in Rupert Brooke. His friends included E.M. Forster, Virginia Woolf, Keynes, George Bernard Shaw, Henry James, and Violet Asquith, the daughter of the Prime Minister. Brooke traveled widely, including trips to North America and the south seas. He edited an anthology of Georgian poetry and his own book, Poems 1911, came out the same year. When World War I broke out in 1914, the 27-year-old became a sub-lieutenant in the Royal Naval division. Weakened by a series of illnesses, Brooke died off the Greek island of Skyros of blood poisoning from an insect bite. He had only seen combat once, but his sonnet, "Soldier" and several other wartime poems, became celebrated during the early, war-fevered years in England. Winston Churchill wrote a patriotic obituary after his death. Brooke was at minimum a strong doubter (see his poem "Heaven"). D. 1915.
Fish (fly-replete, in depth of June,
Dawdling away their wat'ry noon)
Ponder deep wisdom, dark or clear,
Each secret fishy hope or fear.
Fish say, they have their Stream and Pond;
But is there anything Beyond?
This life cannot be All, they swear,
For how unpleasant, if it were!
One may not doubt that, somehow, Good
Shall come of Water and of Mud;
And, sure, the reverent eye must see
A Purpose in Liquidity.
We darkly know, by Faith we cry,
The future is not Wholly Dry.
Mud unto mud! — Death eddies near —
Not here the appointed End, not here!
But somewhere, beyond Space and Time.
Is wetter water, slimier slime!
And there (they trust) there swimmeth One
Who swam ere rivers were begun,
Immense, of fishy form and mind,
Squamous, omnipotent, and kind;
And under that Almighty Fin,
The littlest fish may enter in.
Oh! never fly conceals a hook,
Fish say, in the Eternal Brook,
But more than mundane weeds are there,
And mud, celestially fair;
Fat caterpillars drift around,
And Paradisal grubs are found;
Unfading moths, immortal flies,
And the worm that never dies.
And in that Heaven of all their wish,
There shall be no more land, say fish.
—-Rupert Brooke, "Heaven," 1913
Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor
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