“The Soldier” is a sonnet of two stanzas: an octet of eight lines and a sestet of six lines. It is the last in a series of five sonnets composed shortly after the outbreak of World War I. The poems are linked by theme as well as form; all reflect idealism and optimism in the face of war, expressing the idea of release through self-sacrifice that many experienced with the coming of that war. “The Soldier” is about the probable death of a soldier, but the poem has little to do with dying.
The first stanza establishes the situation. The first-person speaker requests that “If I should die, think only this of me:/ That there’s some corner of a foreign field/ That is for ever England.” Even in the war’s earliest stages there was the realization that the battles would result in death for at least some of the combatants. The pain of dying or the physical degradation of death are totally absent, however; the references that follow are all to life. Brooke asserts that where his body is eventually buried, “a richer dust [will be] concealed.” The dust of his body is richer than that surrounding it because he was a part of his country. The England that Brooke describes exhibits the characteristics of the rural countryside—in particular, a tranquil landscape like that of his native Cambridgeshire. The “English air,” the flowers, rivers, roads, paths, and “suns of home” all define what the narrator claims that his country gave to and forged...
(The entire section is 430 words.)