In "The Soldier," how does the narrator view dying for his country?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The speaker of Rupert Brooke's poem "The Soldier" presents dying for England during the First World War in bittersweet terms. The poem does not glorify death in patriotic terms but does lament that it might be necessary. The opening lines demonstrate the nationalist sentiment of the speaker:

If I should die, think only this of me:
That there's some corner of a foreign field
That is for ever England.

The focus on how the speaker's body and soul are "wholly English" forms the main subject-matter of "The Soldier." The remaining lines in both stanzas discuss the profound influence that England has had on the speaker as an individual. The implication is that the speaker owes a debt to his native land; although he does not seek death, he would be willing to die for his country.

"The Soldier" is unique because it doesn't quite fit the categories typically created for war poetry. The poem is not anti-war but neither is it patriotically pro-war. The nuance and ambiguity of the poem are some of the primary reasons for its enduring popularity. On a relevant side note, Rupert Brooke died of an infected mosquito bite before he even saw combat. He is buried in Greece. ​

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Unlike his contemporary, Wilfred Owen, Brooke paints an idealistic picture of war in this poem. Brooke does not go into the horror or devastation of war. Rather, he celebrates the gesture of making the sacrifice for his country.

He expresses the idea that it is honorable to die for one's country, particularly England. In the first stanza, Brooke says that "if" he should die in a foreign land, then that land (place of his death and/ or burial) will be "for ever England." England made him who he is. He and his native England are materially and spiritually linked. Wherever he happens to end up, that land will have this inherent connection to his sacrifice and his idealized vision of England.

Brooke clearly shows his patriotism in this poem. He was prepared to die for England in this war, and he did die in 1915. He believed if he should die, his spirit would give back what England gave him. These are the thoughts, sights, sounds, and dreams that Brooke attributes to England. His description of England goes beyond patriotism. He gives it such lofty praise that phrases like "English heaven" are no surprise because his England has an almost Edenic aura about it.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial