If I should die, think only this of me:
That there’s some corner of a foreign field
That is for ever England. There shall be
In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam,
A body of England’s, breathing English air,
Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home.
And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;
Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,
In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.
It is an irony both tragic and prophetic that Rupert Brooke did in fact die (at 27 years old) while enlisted in the British army. He was commissioned as a sub-lieutenant in the Royal Navy’s Antwerp expedition. His friend and fellow soldier William Denis Browne wrote this of Brooke’s final moments —
“…I sat with Rupert. At 4 o’clock he became weaker, and at 4:46 he died, with the sun shining all round his cabin, and the cool sea-breeze blowing through the door and the shaded windows. No one could have wished for a quieter or a calmer end than in that lovely bay, shielded by the mountains and fragrant with sage and thyme.”
— and also found the plot of ground, in a shaded olive grove in Skyros, Greece, that would be Brooke’s final resting place. You can still visit his grave there today.
Brooke was also one of the first World War One poets whose name is engraved in slate at the Poets’ Corner of Westminster Abbey. The inscription on the stone comes from fellow war poet Wilfred Owen: “My subject is War, and the pity of War. The Poetry is in the pity.”