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Georgian Patriotic Rhetoric 2014

INTRODUCTION

This seminar paper will be based on some general characteristics and issues concerning the Great
War and how it affected every aspect of British life. It will deal with the British poetry of the
Great War and the rhetoric of Rupert Brooke. Poems, The Old Vicarage, Grantchester; The
Dead and The Soldier will serve for the analysis of his rhetoric. It will focus more on precise
examples and images explaining the topic that is being discussed. And, at the end, there will be
given a concluding note.

As it is already known the period from 1890 to the end of the Second World War in
literature is called modernism. Some consider this period starting from 1910 and lasting to the
end of the Second WW. The reason for that is the fact that in one period we can have features
th
and characteristics of some other period. The beginning of the 20 century represents the
fracturing of every aspect of British life. It affects both political life and social system, but also
literature. What is prevailing for this period is the saying Make it new. The old image of the
world is to be forgotten. At the beginning of the century the British empire had a huge
dominance in the world and reached its zenith. The inhabitants of the British colonies were
called British subjects and The Great Britain was the chosen daughter of Lord.

However, this war was a huge clash between great world forces that unleashed death, loss
and suffering on an unprecedented scale. As written on one website “masses of dead bodies
strewn upon the ground, plumes of poison gas drifting through the air, hundreds of miles of
trenches infested with rats—these are but some of the indelible images that have come to be
associated with World War I”1. All in all, Britain was not ready to enter the war. Afterwards, it
was important to sensitize the nation to enter the war. In that sense, media was in the first place
to do that, and poets were engaged in that undertaking. By reading literature, people were
motivated to participate in the war.

1
”British Literature Wiki.” The First World War ad Literature.
https://britlitwiki.wikispaces.com/The+First+World+War+and+Literature

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Literature during the Great War also reflects the changes society was undergoing. Many
social, political and economic shifts occurred during the war. Women were to take care children
and support the whole family in the absence of men, who suffered the physical and psychological
stress of war. Women got jobs working in factories in order to provide for their children. The
new style of war allowed soldiers a great amount of time to ponder the battles they fought, while
writers and poets of the Great War attempted to distinguish how this war different than anything
the world had seen before.

The first decade of the twentieth century resulted in patriotic and nationalistic issues often
being addressed in the poetry of the period. It is shared the desire for reintroducing the individual
and depicting a personal response in poetry. Poets mostly evoked the rural landscape rather than
looking towards the city for inspiration. In the following chapter, it is the Georgian poetry that
will be discussed.

GEORGIAN POETRY

There are a number of characteristics of Georgian poetry that should be mentioned. Firstly,
the Georgians tended to look for influences within England. Here, we think primarily of the
English Romantics. Secondly, poems written in this period demonstrate a civilized poise and
charm. Many of the Rupert Brooke‟s poems are characteristically Georgian in terms of their
relaxed nature, their uncomplicated syntax, their flowing and easy rhythms. Thirdly, much of the
poetry of this period is motivated by a great love of the beauty of the countryside, emphasizing
the pleasant side of things. On the other side, this poetry lacks a deep philosophical input. There
are no deeper thoughts inspired by landscape.

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Picture 1

As stated in an article by Paul Moeyes “the Georgians have largely been ignored since the
moment they went out of fashion in the mid-1920s mainly because the Modernists labeled them
reactionary, but more recent criticism has convincingly shown that they were in fact, like the
Modernists, reacting against the late Victorian tory imperialist tradition”2. Rupert Brooke is
regarded as one of the leading lights among the Georgian poets. The same article states that “it
was his mother, who instilled in him the Victorian values that were to burden him for the rest of
his life. In his adolescent years he discovered the poets of the Nineties, and their decadence
inevitably clashed with his mother‟s religious upbringing. This is evident in his early poetry
consisting of decadent pastiches with strongly religious overtones”3.

. Winston Churchill wrote his obituary to The Times painting a portrait of Brooke as an
eager defender of nation and honor willing to die for dear England whose beauty and majesty he
knew with absolute conviction of the rightness of his country‟s cause. Brooke has since been
known as a “war poet”, although he saw no action during the war and completed only five poems
on the subject. His war experience consisted of one day of limited military action. Brooke is not
a war poet, not in the same sense that Siegfried Sassoon, Robert Graves and Wilfred Owen are
war poets. He is rather a pre-war poet. Unlike Wilfred Owen, whose poetry often demonstrated
2
Moeyes, Paul. “Georgian Poetry’s False Dawn” (July 1991): 456-458.
http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/BF00406711#page-1
3
Moeyes, Paul. “Georgian Poetry’s False Dawn” (July 1991): 456-458.
http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/BF00406711#page-1

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the horrors of war, the physical landscape which surrounded him, and the human body in relation
to that landscape, the Brooke‟s verses stand in sharp contrast with that in the way that they are
extremely patriotic. In the following pages, we will focus on the poems analyzing the patriotic
rhetoric with exact examples.

PRE-WAR POEMS

Each poem is deeply and socially engaged, reflecting the spirit of the nation in that period.
What is hidden is the Victorian spirit, but still it can be found and recognized in these poems. We
shall start with the poem The Old Vicarage, Grantchester. It is the ode to patriotism. The poetic
subject comes to the old house which is in the village called Grantchester. There the lilac is in
bloom, the poppy and pansy blow, the chestnuts make a tunnel of green gloom, and beneath that
the green and deep mysterious stream glides. This image gives the pastoral atmosphere, the
stream is mysterious, but still has its beauty. The next image is one of the typical scene in
England, after school children go to the river to bathe. This idyllic picture of the nature is in
contrast with the nervousness and political friction.

On the other hand, Temperamentvoll German Jews which emphasizes the author‟s negative
attitude towards Germans is the tone of anti-Semitism, the term which is connected to Nazi
Germany. What English are crazy about is definitely a garden. Everyone wants to have a garden.
In England gardens are not limited. The poet praises the nature, but not any nature, but the nature
in Grantchester, where one can get in touch with both nature and Earth. In the poem, the nature is
spelt with the capital N, which means the mother Nature, where the Creator dwells. Nature is
represented as an organism.

The sky in this English village is not the same as oppose to some other skies. It is the
Cambridge sky. After this stanza, we have an action. The poet can not stay in Berlin anymore.
He has to turn back to England, because it is the one land, where men with Splendid Hearts may
go. These words, splendid and hearts are also capitalized because it has a deeper meaning. Not
only a meaning, but also a profound connection with the nature. In the poem, England is referred
as the holy land and the elm-clumps are its guardians. The river is not arranged which implies

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that everything is spontaneous and relaxed. By these verses, the idea of freedom is given. The
poem ends with the following verses referring to English traditions:

“Oh, is the water sweet and cool,


Gentle and brown, above the pool?
And laughs the immortal river still
Under the mill, under the mill?
Say, is there Beauty yet to find?
And Certainty? and Quiet kind?
Deep meadows ye, for to forget
The lies, and truths, and pain?...oh! yet
Stands the Church clock at ten to three?
And is there honey for tea?

This poem is sentimentally nostalgic, yet it is more than just the longing of an exile for his
home. Homesick for England, it is Grantchester, in particular, that he desires.

In the poem The Dead the poet used the structure of Petrarch sonnet. Sonnets are used
mostly for love poems and the fact that the poet used a sonnet for his poem can represent the
love for his country, knowing that he was patriotic and felt that it was a glorious thing to die for
your country.

The Dead

Blow out, you bugles, over the rich Dead!


There‟s none of these so lonely and poor of old,
But, dying, has made us rarer gifts than gold.
These laid the world away; poured out the red
Sweet wine of youth; gave up the years to be
Of work and joy, and that unhoped serene,
That men call age; and those who would have been,
Their sons, they gave, their immortality.

Blow, bugles, blow! They brought us, for our dearth,


Holiness, lacked so long, and Love, and Pain.
Honor has come back, as a king, to earth,
And paid his subjects with a royal wage;
And Nobleness walks in our ways again;
And we have come into our heritage.

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The word dead is capitalized, giving it importance, death is given an identity. „Blow out, you
bugles‟, the military emphasis is clear from the beginning, and repeated at the beginning of the
second stanza. Also, as the soldiers are the rich dead, they are seen to have gained fortune.
Money, wealth, and particularly reward are interspersed throughout the poem. The dead are rich
not only because of their death, but also in the manner in which they have been allowed to die.
„Dying has made us rarer gifts than gold‟. The poet says that the dead men have made the
deepest sacrifice possible, but in return they have made themselves noble and brought honor
back to Britain. The soldiers brought „Holiness‟, „Love‟, and „Pain‟. These are all capitalized and
in that way personified. Wealth is constantly mentioned. It is metaphorical wealth, referring to
honor. „These laid the world away‟, implying that death is a release from the weariness of the
world. „gave up the years to be of work and joy, and that unhoped serene, that men call age;‟,
interjecting the idea that death is not without loss. Not only for the soldiers themselves, but also
for their offspring, „who would have been..‟, cutting off the immortal line of subsequent
generations.

Ironically, the resting place of the dead who have paid such a heavy price for the return of
honour, is „to earth‟. And, in the last stanza the word heritage is used, linking clearly with the
overall theme of „payment and reward‟. The word implies „that which is rightfully theirs‟, almost
as if a legal will has been successfully implemented.

As far as the poem The Soldier is concerned, it is considered to be an English nationalist


poem. It glorifies the heroism of English soldiers who fought in the Great War. What the poet
wants to say is that the war is not always started for the reasons that the government tells you
that; there is a larger picture to consider.

If I should die, think only this of me:


That there's some corner of a foreign field
That is for ever England. There shall be
In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam,
A body of England's, breathing English air,
Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home.

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In the first verses the poet is saying that if he dies in battle, he will stay in that field, and
since his dead body is there, it is like that part of the field belongs to England, because he
belongs to England. It was his birth place, and it influenced his thoughts and beliefs. England
taught him love, loyalty and honor. His soul will be immortal, because he fought for England. At
the end, his death is justified, because he died for his country. The final lines are showing the
happiness that England has given him. And because he fought for England he will be at peace in
an English heaven with only good thoughts and laughter in his heart.

Brooke observes the sonnet form, 14 lines of iambic pentameter, divided into an octave and
sestet. However, the octave is rhymed after the Shakespearean scheme (ababcdcd), while the
sestet follows the Petrarch (efgefg). The octave and sestet both enjoin the reader to imagine the
blissful state of the fallen soldier.

CONCLUSION

The goal of this paper was to give general explanation and characteristics of the period
during the First World War that influenced not only a social aspect of English life, but also
literature and art in general. By giving exact examples and definitions from different resources,
the paper offers the clarification of the matter. The analysis of the poems is based on personal
impressions and conclusions. What can be concluded is that Brooke‟s poems were great
contribution to Georgian poetry, especially the poem The Old Vicarage, Grantchester. It will
stay as a monument of that time.

These pre-war poems serve as a perfect example of the “before image” of how people feel
before they go to war. Brooke wrote „The Soldier” in 1914, just as the World War 1 was about to
begin. There is no way he could have known how horrible it would be. Nobody would have
foreseen how bad things would get for everyone. Brooke‟s poems reflect this pre-war perspective
and it gives us some great insight into how people can romanticize war when they haven‟t yet
experienced it.

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CONTENTS

INTRODUCTION _____________________________________________________________________ 1
GEORGIAN POETRY __________________________________________________________________ 2
PRE-WAR POEMS ____________________________________________________________________ 4
CONCLUSION _______________________________________________________________________ 7

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REFERENCES

”British Literature Wiki.” The First World War ad Literature.

Different Assessments. The Times, April 26th , 1915.

Google. scholar

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