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RUPERT BROOKE'S ACTUAL REACTION TO WAR
The group of five sonnets called 1914 that Rupert Brooke wrote in December 1914 and finished in January 1915 became, within a few months, some of the most praised and widely read poems of their day. They glorified England and the idea of dying for England and one might think that Brooke was very keen to fight and die for his country. In fact, when war broke out in August 1914 Brooke was completely confused. He wrote of his "resentment that he might have to volunteer for military training and service," but he "vaguely imagined a series of heroic feats, vast enterprise, and the applause of crowds." His feelings reminded him of the time of his mental breakdown which occurred when his girlfriend, Ka (Katherine) Cox, had shown an interest in another young man, the painter, Henry Lamb. After this incident, although he remained on close terms with a number of young women, including the Prime Minister's daughter, Violet Asquith, he never found lasting satisfaction in love. He seemed unable to make a deep personal commitment to anyone. Nor did he seem able to commit himself fully to any ambition or any cause.
His lack of commitment to people and causes is reflected in Peace, the first of the 1914 sonnets.
The above is an extract from Out in the Dark - Poetry of the First World War. More information about the state of Brooke's mind appears in Out in the Dark, and far more in Minds at War.
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