Peace by Rupert Brooke

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Firstly direct your attention to a close examination of Rupert Brookes sonnet ‘Peace’ which was inspired by his experience with the Royal Naval Division during the evacuation of Antwerp in October 1914. Brooke observes the sonnet form (14 lines of iambic pentameter, divided into an octave and sestet), however the octave is rhymed after the Shakespearean/Elizabethan (ababcdcd) rhyme scheme, while the sestet follows the Petrarchan/Italian (efgefg). Brooke has also deviated somewhat from the traditional thematic divisions associated with the octave and sestet: question/predicament and resolution/solution, respectively. The octave begins immediately to herald a great change, and the sestet functions merely to detail it further. Brooke not only bends sonnet rules, he also tacks on an extra syllable to 10 of the 14 lines, while making line 9 (the beginning of the sestet) a full hexameter.

The images in the first four lines: of religious calling, inspired youth, waking with restored strength and refreshed senses, and the swimmer turning (away from filthiness) and diving into sparkling clean water are images of baptism and absolution that belong to the doctrine of "muscular Christianity." Begun and practiced at Rugby where Brooke was born and raised, "muscular Christianity" was a late-Victorian public-school notion of cleansing and test of manhood afforded by getting out of doors and getting in the game. Some practitioners of this notion felt that the war was the way to cleanse society (and especially young manhood) of what they saw as the effeminacy of Modernism. The second quatrain could describe this reaction against Modernism. However, Brooke was also looking for a fresh- start for himself. He was: Glad from a world grown old and cold and weary,

Leave the sick hearts that honor could not move,
And half-men, and their dirty songs and dreary,
And all the little emptiness of love!
The end of the octave ("And all the little emptiness of love!") is the climax of...
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