Rupert Brooke (1887-1915)

1914 I. Peace


Now, God be thanked Who has matched us with His hour
And caught our youth, and wakened us from sleeping,
With hand made sure, clear eye, and sharpened power,
To turn, as swimmers into cleanness leaping,
Glad from a world grown old and cold and weary,
Leave the sick hearts that honour could not move,
And half-men, and their dirty songs and dreary,
And all the little emptiness of love!

Oh! we, who have known shame, we have found release there,
Where there's no ill, no grief, but sleep has mending,
Naught broken save this body, lost but breath;
Nothing to shake the laughing heart's long peace there
But only agony, and that has ending;

And the worst friend and enemy is but Death.



A Breakdown of “Peace 1914”, by Rupert Brooke.

Theme – war is a worthy and glorious cause that can lift you above the “rabble” and absolve you of any sins. If you die you would be accepted into heaven having done your “time” penance, for the cause, a war blessed by God.

Language features/techniques – use of allusions to the Victorian Era’s ideology of the glory that is to be acquired through battle. His diction is romantic and classical and has religious references/ allusions to God and God’s blessing of this war. His diction style is not conversational or plain. It is more like a prayer of thanks to God for the opportunity of being part of such a noble cause.

It is a prayer of thanks to God for the opportunity to die for such a noble reason.

It is a prayer of thanks to God for the opportunity to leave behind others who are not brave or honourable enough to fight for Britain’s cause.

It is a prayer of thanks to God for the opportunity to “rise above the masses” in society.

It is a prayer of thanks to God for the opportunity of having their sins absolved through death for a good cause and so therefore to be able to enter heaven.

Tone – is “lofty” classical and uplifting. An offering of thanks to God.

Now God be thanked - thanking God for the opportunity of going to war on behalf of the British people/Empire

Who has matched us with his hour – God has “matched” the soldiers/young men of England, physically, mentally and skilfully to be able to go to war on God’s behalf.

And caught our youth, and wakened us from sleeping – God has got them while they are still young and strong, opened their eyes to the necessity and value of going to war for Britain. Up until this time British youth had been unaware of the cause that was brewing.

With hand made sure, clear eye, and sharpened power, - British youth at this time, or those that wanted to fight – were steady of hand/strong, could see well, but also had good understanding of what was right and wrong. Sharpened power – could fight with precision. Good physical form.

To turn, as swimmers into cleanness leaping – the soldiers who go and leap into this war/battles, are leaping into a “clean” “Holy” cause and so therefore are themselves going to be “cleansed” by the glory of battle and their bravery.

Glad from a world grown old and cold and weary - happy that they are leaving behind a Britain and the kinds of people that weren’t up/ brave enough/honourable enough/patriotic to fight. These people left behind appear cold and worn out.

Leave the sick hearts that honour could not move – leaving those young men whose souls and hearts weren’t strong enough to have a noble cause make them feel guilty about not going.

And half-men, and their dirty songs and dreary – those that didn’t want to go were not “whole men”. They just wanted to hang out and sing dirty songs and live dreary, unimportant lives.


And all the little emptiness of love! – these “half-men” were only interested in sex, and girls.


Oh! We, who have known shame - yes, Brooke is acknowledging that the brave soldiers prepared to go to war may still have sinned in some way, so could therefore be less than pure..


We have found release there – Brooke is saying that the sinners have found absolution, repentance, doing your penance at the war. Doing your spiritual cleansing time. Doing good works.

Where there’s no ill, no grief, but sleep is mending – nothing really bad can happen to you. There is nothing that should make you sad because everyone is dying/fighting/getting wounded for a good cause. The “sleep” of death is mending for sinners. You’ve done your time, you’re going to get to heaven.

Naught broke save the body, lost but breath – only your body gets broken. Only your breath gets taken from you.


Nothing to shake the laughing heart’s long peace there – nothing can take away your happy, peaceful heart.
But only agony, and that has ending; - OK, you might be in pain for a short time – but that will pass

And the worst friend and enemy is but Death. – your only enemy is the person called “Death”. He has given Death a lifeform/entity. It is someone to get to know as a friend and enemy.