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The Collected Poems of Rupert Brooke

Introduction by George Edward Woodberry
I
Rupert Brooke was both fair to see and winning in his ways. There was at the first contact both
bloom and charm; and most of all there was life. To use the word his friends describe him by, he
was "vivid". This vitality, though manifold in expression, is felt primarily in his sensations --
surprise mingled with delight --
"One after one, like tasting a sweet food."
This is life's "first fine rapture". It makes him patient to name over those myriad things (each of
which seems like a fresh discovery) curious but potent, and above all common, that he "loved", -
- he the "Great Lover". Lover of what, then? Why, of
"White plates and cups clean-gleaming,
Ringed with blue lines," --
and the like, through thirty lines of exquisite words; and he is captivated by the multiple brevity
of these vignettes of sense, keen, momentary, ecstatic with the morning dip of youth in the
wonderful stream. The poem is a catalogue of vital sensations and "dear names" as well. "All
these have been my loves."
The spring of these emotions is the natural body, but it sends pulsations far into the spirit. The
feeling rises in direct observation, but it is soon aware of the "outlets of the sky". He sees
objects practically unrelated, and links them in strings; or he sees them pictorially; or, he sees
pictures immersed as it were in an atmosphere of thought. When the process is complete, the
thought suggests the picture and is its origin. Then the Great Lover revisits the bottom of the
monstrous world, and imaginatively and thoughtfully recreates that strange under-sea, whose
glooms and gleams and muds are well known to him as a strong and delighted swimmer; or, at
the last, drifts through the dream of a South Sea lagoon, still with a philosophical question in his
mouth. Yet one can hardly speak of "completion". These are real first flights. What we have in
this volume is not so much a work of art as an artist in his birth trying the wings of genius.
The poet loves his new-found element. He clings to mortality; to life, not thought; or, as he puts
it, to the concrete, -- let the abstract "go pack!" "There's little comfort in the wise," he ends. But
in the unfolding of his precocious spirit, the literary control comes uppermost; his boat, finding its
keel, swings to the helm of mind. 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. 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
 
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