Rupert Brooke

On this date in 1887, Rupert Brooke was born in England. The Cambridge-educated poet became a celebrity 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 Brooke. He 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 Navy. 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. Winston Churchill wrote a patriotic obituary after his death. Brooke was at minimum a strong doubter. Below is an excerpt of his poem “Heaven.” Click here for an animated musical version by FFRF’s Kati Treu and Dan Barker. ( D. 1915)

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