How should it be otherwise for a youth well-born, well-bred, in college air? Intellectual primacy showed itself to him in many wandering "loves", fine lover that he was; but in the end he was an intellectual lover, and the magnet seems to have been especially powerful in the ghosts of the men of "wit", Donne, Marvell — erudite lords of language, poets in another world than ours, a less "ample ether", a less "divine air", our fathers thought, but poets of "eternity". A quintessential drop of intellect is apt to be in poetic blood.
Time, Space & Eternity
How Platonism fascinates the poets, like a shining bait! Rupert Brooke will have none of it; but at a turn of the verse he is back at it, examining, tasting, refusing. In those alternate drives of the thought in his South Sea idyl clever as tennis play how he slips from phenomenon to idea and reverses, happy with either, it seems, "were t'other dear charmer away". How bravely he tries to free himself from the cling of earth, at the close of the "Great Lover"!
How little he succeeds!
Time, Space & Eternity By Samphrey Alli
His muse knew only earthly tongues, — so far as he understood. Why this persistent cling to mortality, — with its quick-coming cry against death and its heaped anathemas on the transformations of decay? It is the old story once more: — the vision of the first poets, the world that "passes away". The poetic eye of Keats saw it, —. He cannot forego his sensations, that "box of compacted sweets". He even forefeels a ghostly landscape where two shall go wandering through the night, "alone". So the faith that broke its chrysalis in the first disillusionment of boyhood, in "Second Best", beautiful with the burden of Greek lyricism, ends triumphant with the spirit still unsubdued.
So go, "with unreluctant tread". But in the disillusionment of beauty and of love there is an older tone. With what bitter savor, with what grossness of diction, caught from the Elizabethan and satirical elements in his culture, he spends anger in words! He reacts, he rebels, he storms. A dozen poems hardly exhaust his gall. It is not merely that beauty and joy and love are transient, now, but in their going they are corrupted into their opposites, — ugliness, pain, indifference.
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And his anger once stilled by speech, what lassitude follows! Life, in this volume, is hardly less evident by its ecstasy than by its collapse. It is a book of youth, sensitive, vigorous, sound; but it is the fruit of intensity, and bears the traits.
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The search for solitude, the relief from crowds, the open door into nature; the sense of flight and escape; the repeated thought of safety, the insistent fatigue, the cry for sleep; — all these bear confession in their faces. At moments weariness set in like a spiritual tide. I associate, too, with such moods, psychologically at least, his visions of the "arrested moment", as in "Dining-Room Tea", — a sort of trance state — or in the pendant sonnet.
Analogous moods are not infrequent in the great poets. Rupert Brooke seems to have faltered, nervously, at times; these poems mirror faithfully such moments. But even when the image of life, imaginative or real, falters so, how essentially vital it still is, and clothed in an exquisite body of words like the traditional "rainbow hues of the dying fish"!
For I cannot express too strongly my admiration of the literary sense of this young poet, and my delight in it. The born man of letters speaks there. So, when his pulse is at its lowest, he cannot forget the beautiful surface of his South Sea idyls or of versified English gardens and lanes. He cared as much for the expression as for the thing, which is what makes a man of letters. So fixed is this habit that his art, truly, is independent of his bodily state. In his poems of "collapse" as in those of "ecstasy" he seems to me equally master of his mood, — like those poets who are "for all time".
His literary skill in verse was ripe, how long so ever he might have to live. To come, then, to art, which is above personality, what of that? Art is, at most, but the mortal relic of genius; yet it is true of it that, like Ozymandias' statue, "nothing beside remains".
Rupert Brooke was already perfected in verbal and stylistic execution. He might have grown in variety, richness and significance, in scope and in detail, no doubt; but as an artisan in metrical words and pauses, he was past apprenticeship. He was still a restless experimenter, but in much he was a master.
In the brief stroke of description, which he inherited from his early attachment to the concrete; in the rush of words, especially verbs; in the concatenation of objects, the flow of things 'en masse' through his verse, still with the impulse of "the bright speed" he had at the source; in his theatrical impersonation of abstractions, as in "The Funeral of Youth", where for once the abstract and the concrete are happily fused; — in all these there are the elements, and in the last there is the perfection, of mastery.
For one thing, he knew how to end. It is with him a dramatic secret. The brief stroke does this work time and time again in his verse, nowhere better than in "at dead YOUTH's funeral:" all were there, —. How vivid! The lines owe something to his eye for costume, for staging; but, as mere picture writing, it is as firm as if carved on an obelisk. And as he reconciled concrete and abstract here, so he had left his short breath, in those earlier lines, behind, and had come into the long sweep and open water of great style: —. Such lines as these, apart from their beauty, are in the best manner of English poetic style.
So, in many minor ways, he shuffled contrast and climax, and the like, adept in the handling of poetic rhetoric that he had come to be; but in three ways he was conspicuously successful in his art. The first of these — they are all in the larger forms of art — is the dramatic sonnet, by which I do not mean merely a sonnet in dialogue or advancing by simple contrast; but one in which there may be these things, but also there is a tragic reversal or its equivalent.
Not to consider it too curiously, take "The Hill". This sonnet is beautiful in action and diction; its eloquence speeds it on with a lift; the situation is the very crest of life; then, —. The dramatic sonnet in English has not gone beyond that, for beauty, for brevity, for tragic effect, — nor, I add, for unspoken loyalty to reality. Reality was, perhaps, what he most dearly wished for; here he achieved it.
In many another sonnet he won the laurel; but if I were to venture to choose, it is in the dramatic handling of the sonnet that he is most individual and characteristic. The second great success of his genius, formally considered, lay in the narrative idyl, either in the Miltonic way of flashing bits of English country landscape before the eye, as in "Grantchester", or by applying essentially the same method to the water world of fishes or the South Sea world, both on a philosophic background.
These are all master poems of a kaleidoscopic beauty and charm, where the brief pictures play in and out of a woven veil of thought, irony, mood, with a delightful intellectual pleasuring. He thoroughly enjoys doing the poetical magic. Such bits of English retreats or Pacific paradises, so full of idyllic charm, exquisite in image and movement, are among the rarest of poetic treasures. The thought of Milton and of Marvell only adds an old world charm to the most modern of the works of the Muses.
What lightness of touch, what ease of movement, what brilliancy of hue! What vivacity throughout! Even in "Retrospect", what actuality! And the third success is what I should call the "melange". That is, the method of indiscrimination by which he gathers up experience, and pours it out again in language, with full disregard of its relative values. His good taste saves him from what in another would be shipwreck, but this indifference to values, this apparent lack of selection in material, while at times it gives a huddled flow, more than anything else "modernizes" the verse.
It yields, too, an effect of abundant vitality, and it makes facile the change from grave to gay and the like. The "melange", as I call it, is rather an innovation in English verse, and to be found only rarely. It exists, however; and especially it was dear to Keats in his youth.
It is by excellent taste, and by style, that the poet here overcomes its early difficulties. In these three formal ways, besides in minor matters, it appears to me that Rupert Brooke, judged by the most orthodox standards, had succeeded in poetry. But in his first notes, if I may indulge my private taste, I find more of the intoxication of the god. These early poems are the lyrical cries and luminous flares of a dawn, no doubt; but they are incarnate of youth. Capital among them is "Blue Evening".
She really wanted a boyfriend by now, just one. Just to try it. Worse yet, she actually loves River. She pushes off her bedroom floor and stares out the window as the tears dry on her flushed cheeks. At a party Nick threw that April, they made love for the first time. All the lights were on and the animal heads seemed to stare at her from the walls. He is young and strong and beautiful. Her Adonis on a longboard flying down Cranbrook Road at three a. The kind that burns her throat and makes her spin and spin. The kind that makes her tilt her head back, stare at the stars, and weep private tears.
Everything seems so far away and right around the corner, all at once. The problem is, with River, she can talk about anything.
He only smiles with the gap in his teeth around her. He knows it, too.
She can tell. She can tell it scares him. She goes home at dawn before his parents find out, leaving the pink heat of his room for the solitude of her own.