The Old Vicarage, Grantchester Questions and Answers
by Rupert Brooke

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What is the summary of the poem "The Old Vicarage, Grantchester," including the lines "Ah God! to see the branches stir / Across the moon at Grantchester! / To smell the thrilling-sweet and rotten / Unforgettable, unforgotten / River-smell, and hear the breeze . . ."?

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This passage is taken from the poem "The Old Vicarage, Grantchester" written by Rupert Brooke in 1912. The poem has a short line before it begins, after the title: (Café des Westens, Berlin, May 1912). This tells us that the poem is set in Berlin, Germany, at a French cafe; this seems to be where the poem was written, as opposed to where most of its imagery is set. The poem begins with the speaker talking about flowers in bloom nearby, and a river that is "green as a dream, and deep as death." The first stanza ends with the words "du Leiber Gott!" which is German for "Oh, God!" (or "good heavens!") and this line repeats in English later in the poem.

The next stanza describes how uncomfortable the speaker is, "sweating, sick and hot," and how he yearns to return to Grantchester, a village near Cambridge, England. He then discusses the different villages and towns near it, and brief images of the people and places that show how none of them compare to Grantchester. The line quoted in your question occurs near the end of the poem, relating the wish of the speaker to be there once again. Clearly he is homesick and these thoughts give him comfort.

It's important to know the historical setting and context of this poem; given the year and location, one cannot ignore that this is the beginning of World War I, a war that would decimate the English population and throw Europe into years of turmoil. The author died during the war in 1915, after joining the Royal Navy. He was considered one of England's finest poets and his death is considered tragic, as he may have continued to write great poems had he not been killed while serving.

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