Written Text Practice: The Soldier
By Rupert Brooke
Question: Analyse how the writer selected language to persuade the audience
The Soldier by Rupert Brooke exemplifies English patriotism which serves as the place where the poet himself will return to following his demise. A range of literary techniques have been utilised to convince the reader, including foreboding, vivid imagery, and personification. Undeniably, the soldier’s devotion for his country is everlasting and will flourish forever.
The poem opens with, “If I should die, think only this of me.” Brooke immediately states his strong desire to be remembered. Not only is this his aim, but the bold statement instantly demonstrates the point in such a way that it is stamped on the reader’s mind. In fact, it really is a sense of foreboding as the soldier is aware of the fatal repercussion he will have to face. Most of the time, Brooke’s foreboding indicates a negative event or situation which will take place. However, rather than being pessimistic, this figurative device establishes an encouraging tone thereby supporting the soldier if he has to sacrifice his life for the beloved nation. Brooke is willing to go to war knowing that there are dangers and that the chances are high that he will die. Yet, he is still confident that all the blessings that follow from being English will be transferred into both the soil where his body will lie, and into the ‘eternal mind.’ He expresses this first by saying that “That there’s some corner of a foreign field, that is for ever England.” Regardless of whether the soldier is in close proximity to England or not, his homeland will always be the central aspect of his being. This creates the strong sentiment of cultural cringe in the wider world. This is the perception of viewing one’s national culture being inferior to the cultures of other countries. New Zealanders are said to suffer from cultural cringe since the 19th century as the verdant land was inhabited by Polynesians at the time. However, this poem is in fact an antithesis for cultural cringe owing to the fact that Brooke’s demeanor is illustrative of a flag-waving patriot.
In the fifth line, personification is apparent when he says, “A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware.” By that means, the realm has been personified in order to enhance the nourishment and fulfilment which has been provided to Brooke. We are able to gain a profound understanding of the relationship between these two objects and are convinced that England is the birth giver of the soldier. In this case, the non-human entity of England urges the reader to develop an evocative image within the reader’s imagination. It is worth mentioning that there are absolutely no harsh depictions of war and so are somewhat manipulated to believe that conflict guides us to positive outcomes. In similar comparison, Who’s for the Game? by Jessie Pope relatively shares the same idea in which soldiers must overcome their fears and challenge themselves being told from a woman’s perspective. She also uses similar personified techniques to encourage the reader by presenting war as a “game” in which amusement is found. An example of this is when she says, “A red crashing game of fight?”. Nonetheless, it must be considered that war should not be shown as a glorified experience but rather an encounter of death and tragedy.
The poem concludes with, “In hearts at peace under an English heaven.” Religious overtones are reminiscent of the notion that death gives only peace and comfort, and Brooke believes that he may die knowing that his life has been well spent and rightly given to help safeguard a nation that is so essential and moral that even heaven reflects its virtues. In a literal sense, heaven is the place in various religions as the abode of God where individuals will return to if they have performed good deeds during their lifetime. The heaven to which he aspires is an English heaven. His emphasis is in regard to the Englishness of heaven and being English has really been the foregrounded metaphor throughout. The vivid imagery plays a key part in intensifying the nationalist tone because the poem itself is extremely musical, so that it has a slightly hypnotic effect on the reader. Because the poem is so fervently patriotic, it romanticizes and sentimentalises the untidy and ugly truths of death in a warzone. Nightly, we watch on television news the horrors of Ukrainian suffering in Mariupol. We are constantly exposed to the pain and wounded limbs of the soldiers in the steelworks there; we also see the reaction of the survivors where civilians in small centers have been tortured and shot in the back. International law has been violated repeatedly, especially in the attack on many hospitals in both West and East Ukraine. All of these images demonstrate that war cannot be painted simply as a nationalist sacrifice.
Overall, it can be said that Brooke is certainly aware of the fact that death is always imminent in a war situation which he was about to enter. However, as a 21st century student who knows the stark reality of war, it is not convincing when war is glorified and glamorised by a talented poet like Rupert Brooke.