Rupert Chawner Brooke was an English war poet who is best known for his collection of idealistic war sonnets written during the First World War and his boyish good looks, which prompted the Irish poet William Butler Yeats to describe him as “the handsomest young man in England”. Poets in Brooke’s time were vastly known to glorify war; however Brooke’s poetry with its patriotic mood and naive enthusiasm soon went out of fashion when the realities of war were fully understood.
His poem Peace is highly well renowned, since it is fairly easy to understand and is structured as a sonnet which uses religious imagery and describes turning away from the old to the new, like a religious conversion and is, in a way, describing the re-birth of a soldier. Peace compares Death to Life, embracing the idea that Death may not actually be bad or a time of suffering, but instead it is a time of Peace and Serenity, hence the title of the poem, Peace.
In the sonnet, Brooke also speculates that there is a world outside the realms of the living where one, specifically a soldier, will go to when they are deceased, a world ‘Where there’s no ill, no grief, but sleep has mending’. In addition to this, he scoffs at those men who refrain from going to war by calling them half-men, which enforces the idea that they are cowardly and timid. Brooke uses symbolic language to describe the youths as chosen by God who has ‘matched us with his hour’.
In other words, God has made them suitable to take part in the war which thus assumes the nature of a crusade. God has given the youth bodily strength. There are many aspects of Life, Death and Religion which Brooke explores throughout the process of his poem. Peace is written in sonnet form. Brooke uses an ABAB rhyming pattern in the first stanza, and an ABCABC one in the second. There are 8 lines in the first stanza, whereas there are only 6 in the second stanza. However, Brooke not only bends sonnet rules, he also tacks on n extra syllable to ten of the lines in Peace.
In the first line alone, Brooke sets the theme for his poem and thanks God for matching everybody with an hour of Death, which not only brings a religious sense to the poem as God is mentioned, but also directly relates to the central theme of Peace, which is Death. The second line, ‘And caught us our youth, and wakened us from sleeping’ shows that Brooke feels that those who die early are forever young, as they move onto a new world, a form of Heaven which Brooke hints is made especially for those soldiers who have died during the war for their country.
Lines 3 and 4 of the poem have are very meaningful, and Brooke uses powerful imagery to make the connection of war with religion. Line 3, ‘With hand made sure, clear eye, and sharpened power’ shows that the soldier is extremely certain of what he is doing and is not having second thoughts about ‘it’, whatever ‘it’ may be. Line 4 includes of a simile, and uses a symbolic representation to describe what it is that the soldier is so eager to do- ‘To turn, as swimmers into cleanness leaping’.
This is a representational image of baptism which washes all previous sin and enables the baptised to be re-born in God. In lines 5-8, Brooke criticises the way of life on Earth, which he claims the symbolic ‘swimmers’ are glad to leave behind as they move onto the afterlife, since he feels that it has grown to be ‘old and cold and weary’ and those ‘half · “Half-men” – Describes the men who don’t want war as incomplete.
Language used here is very powerful. · Sleep is linked with death- pain of war will pass and fearing death is a bad thing. They will be cured by sleep- Purity in dying for your country. · “Where there’s no ill, no grief but sleep has mending. ” The simplicity of a life where a man need only worry about what is happening to his body, most of which can be cured by sleep, results in “the laughing heart’s long peace.. · Oxymoron describes death as “The worst friend and enemy” since it deprives us of life but also brings eternal peace. . Brooke suffered from a severe emotional crisis in 1913, caused by sexual confusion and jealousy, resulting in the breakdown of his long relationship with Ka Cox (Katherine Laird Cox).  Intrigue by both Virginia Woolf and Lytton Strachey is said to have played a part in Brooke’s nervous collapse and subsequent rehabilitation trips to Germany.