On Monday evening I addressed the local branch of the Military History Society on A Poetic View of the First World War. We were on the point of leaving when one of the members thrust a slim, dark volume into my hands. Age has heavily foxed the thick pages near the front and back; the cut of the pages is a little uneven; and the title on the spine is no longer easy to read. “I thought you might like it,” he said. It is an anthology of poems by Rupert Brooke called 1914 & other Poems.
That this volume, first published in May 1915 – a month after Brooke’s death in the Aegean, is the seventh impression printed in August of that year bears testimony to the popularity of poetry at the time. It also illustrates how the many poets writing during the First World War could be so influential. Most of us know Rupert Brooke for his poem, The Soldier, which espoused the patriotic feelings of loyalty and honour prevalent at the time:
That was at the beginning of the First World War.
I have a Bible given to me by my Godmother, which she must have received as a gift.
That was at the end of the war that everyone hoped would end all wars.