This was a long time coming. I have a great appreciation for the poet Rupert Brooke, and these pictures of him as a boy are not often seen. They were scanned from a book I own, ‘The Letters of Rupert Brooke and Noel Olivier’, edited by Pippa Harris.
His life was short and full of ideals, and charmed for the most part. He was also sort of a selfish person who grew up with the proverbial ‘silver spoon’ in his mouth, with many men and women in his love life. But he was free-spirited too, going to America, then to Oahu (where I lived too- love his Waikiki poem) and off to Tahiti where he met the woman, Taatamata, who is thought to have given birth to his daughter.
He died in 1915 at 27, exactly a hundred years ago, of a mosquito bite that brought on scepsis while on duty on a ship. He is interred on Skyros, a Greek island, and his patriotic poem ‘The Soldier’ was used as propaganda during the first World War.
Was Rupert a man of many internal struggles? Most definitely, yet he had an immense talent with words.
In the pages of the book I have, I found an old newspaper article tucked in. Apparently, the grandmother of actress Helena Bonham Carter (who I must say I absolutely love) was very much in love with him. It was unrequited, but they kept a long exchange of letters until Rupert died.
Following is a CDV of Rupert, Alfred and their pet, and two CDV portraits of Rupert in his teens. (By the way, Rupert’s wearing the same collar as another English society boy Leonard Spiller. They both ended up at Cambridge only three years apart too. It would be interesting to find out if Leonard was Alfred’s classmate -they certainly attended during the same years and are the same age.)
And then as he is known: ‘the most handsome man of England’ in 1913, two years before his death:
Sad too that Alfred was killed in action only three months after his brother’s death.
A favorite poem of his after the cut, ‘The Great Lover’.
The highlighted part is a shared belief I use in my own writings.
The Great Lover
I have been so great a lover: filled my days
So proudly with the splendour of Love’s praise,
The pain, the calm, and the astonishment,
Desire illimitable, and still content,
And all dear names men use, to cheat despair,
For the perplexed and viewless streams that bear
Our hearts at random down the dark of life.
Now, ere the unthinking silence on that strife
Steals down, I would cheat drowsy Death so far,
My night shall be remembered for a star
That outshone all the suns of all men’s days.
Shall I not crown them with immortal praise
Whom I have loved, who have given me, dared with me
High secrets, and in darkness knelt to see
The inenarrable godhead of delight?
Love is a flame:–we have beaconed the world’s night.
A city:–and we have built it, these and I.
An emperor:–we have taught the world to die.
So, for their sakes I loved, ere I go hence,
And the high cause of Love’s magnificence,
And to keep loyalties young, I’ll write those names
Golden for ever, eagles, crying flames,
And set them as a banner, that men may know,
To dare the generations, burn, and blow
Out on the wind of Time, shining and streaming . . . .
These I have loved:
White plates and cups, clean-gleaming,
Ringed with blue lines; and feathery, faery dust;
Wet roofs, beneath the lamp-light; the strong crust
Of friendly bread; and many-tasting food;
Rainbows; and the blue bitter smoke of wood;
And radiant raindrops couching in cool flowers;
And flowers themselves, that sway through sunny hours,
Dreaming of moths that drink them under the moon;
Then, the cool kindliness of sheets, that soon
Smooth away trouble; and the rough male kiss
Of blankets; grainy wood; live hair that is
Shining and free; blue-massing clouds; the keen
Unpassioned beauty of a great machine;
The benison of hot water; furs to touch;
The good smell of old clothes; and other such–
The comfortable smell of friendly fingers,
Hair’s fragrance, and the musty reek that lingers
About dead leaves and last year’s ferns. . . .
And thousand other throng to me! Royal flames;
Sweet water’s dimpling laugh from tap or spring;
Holes in the ground; and voices that do sing;
Voices in laughter, too; and body’s pain,
Soon turned to peace; and the deep-panting train;
Firm sands; the little dulling edge of foam
That browns and dwindles as the wave goes home;
And washen stones, gay for an hour; the cold
Graveness of iron; moist black earthen mould;
Sleep; and high places; footprints in the dew;
And oaks; and brown horse-chestnuts, glossy-new;
And new-peeled sticks; and shining pools on grass;–
All these have been my loves. And these shall pass,
Whatever passes not, in the great hour,
Nor all my passion, all my prayers, have power
To hold them with me through the gate of Death.
They’ll play deserter, turn with the traitor breath,
Break the high bond we made, and sell Love’s trust
And sacramented covenant to the dust.
—-Oh, never a doubt but, somewhere, I shall wake,
And give what’s left of love again, and make
New friends, now strangers. . . .
But the best I’ve known
Stays here, and changes, breaks, grows old, is blown
About the winds of the world, and fades from brains
Of living men, and dies.
O dear my loves, O faithless, once again
This one last gift I give: that after men
Shall know, and later lovers, far-removed,
Praise you, ‘All these were lovely’; say, ‘He loved.’