If I should die think only this of me:
That there’s some corner of a foreign field
That is forever 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.
And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;
Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
And laughter, learnt of friends, and gentleness,
In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.
Rupert Brooke was a leading light in the Georgian School of English poetry that flourished during the Edwardian years. He looked more like a poet than any other poet since John Keats and, although he was a member of the Cambridge Apostles while at university, considered himself a Fabian and briefly ran with the Bloomsbury set, he wrote a very conservative brand of poetry, little changed since the time of Keats. (I always found it perversely amusing that “repressive” Wilhelmine Germany gave birth to revolutions in Art, Music and Literature, while free and open England produced warmed-over Romanticism.)
When war broke out Brooke enlisted in the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserves and was commissioned as a Sub-Lieutenant. He was set to take part in the Gallipoli Campaign, but a mosquito bite became infected and he died aboard ship. He was initially buried on the Greek isle of Skyros. It was hardly a heroic death, and I’m sorry to say that I myself allowed his death on April 23rd to pass unnoticed.
But it was hard not to take notice of Elbert Hubbard, especially after his inspirational tract “A Message to Garcia” appeared. Hubbard had begun as a disciple of William Morris both in regard to the Arts-and-Crafts Movement and in regard to Socialism. In 1895 he founded Roycroft, a group of workshops producing a variety of products from furniture to finely printed and bound books. His Roycroft Press in East Aurora, New York also issued a journal The Philistine in which his various “preachments” appeared. Although he remained devoted to the spirit of the Arts-and-Crafts Movement, his youthful enthusiasm for Socialism soon faded and was replaced by “Prison is a Socialist’s Paradise, where equality prevails, everything is supplied and competition is eliminated.”
Hubbard was at the height of his fame as a lecturer and homespun philosopher when he sailed aboard the RMS Lusitania, and on May 7, 1915, he shared the fate of 1,198 other souls when the liner was torpedoed and went down off the Irish coast. Ironically one of the things he had planned to do in Europe was attempt to secure an interview with the Kaiser. Perhaps he would have regaled him with these words:
It is not book-learning young men need, nor instruction about this and that, but a stiffening of the vertebrae which will cause them to be loyal to a trust, to act promptly, concentrate their energies: do the thing—“Carry a message to Garcia.”