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The Dead

- By Rupert Brooke
This poem, The Dead, by Rupert Brooke is a part of his
war sonnets that focuses on the positive aspects of the
war and tries to show to the public the benefits and the
rewards a soldiers gets from taking part in the war and
pride in dying for one’s country. In the first stanza of this
sonnet, he describes the life and routine of the common
man and talks of all the things soldiers did before the war
and later on he tell the reader that all this is no more and
that the times have changed. Also at the end of the poem
he talks about the glory and immortality one gains by
dying on the battlefield. The writer creates a stark
contrast between the two verses in the poem, one
signifying living and the other the dead. The play on
colours, weather and the times of day adds to the setting
through sunrise and sunset, and earthy colours to give a
feeling of warmth and a positive effect and also in the
dark night and frosty climate which refers to all the sorrow
and the creates a negative atmosphere.

The writer focuses this poem around the central
characters of the ‘dead soldiers’ of the war. In the
beginning of the first stanza, he refers to their hearts as
being integrated with ‘human joys and cares.’ This
denotes the love and warmth in their lives before the war
and shows us how happy they were. He also indicates, in
the line ‘washed…to mirth’, that yes this life was not
perfect and that they too have their share of problems and
unhappiness, but still they do not hesitate to laugh it off
as being part and parcel of life. ‘dawn was theirs’ tells us
that now their time had come and it was their time to
shine. The next 3 lines, from ‘they had seen… sat alone’
also show that these men who are now dead, had in their
prime, lived life completely, enjoying all of the tiny
moments; the good like love, friendship, and life and even
those precious indescribable moments where all else
seems meaningless and we can only stand in awe, and
also the few not so good ones like loneliness. But, the poet
goes on too tell us that ‘all this has ended.’ This could
have multiple meanings either referring to the fact that

still talks about the happy lives of soldiers before the war and then goes on to say that due to the war itself ‘all this has ended’. now dead.this stage in their lives as common men was over and that they were now soldiers or it could also mean that these events were over and would no longer take place in their lives. ‘joys’. with… that dance’. that is. thus signifying the loss of live or the drastic change in lifestyle brought about by the war. and have become a thing of the past. is it pro-war or against war. Rupert Brooke uses the present tense of the verb ‘to be’. soldiers were affected by these ‘changing and uncontrollable external forces. In this stanza. by saying that they ‘dance’ refers to their continuous rhythm and movement that is stopped by the frost that freezes the water. the poet refers to the ‘water’ and the ‘waves’ as the soldiers themselves who have been moulded by these external forces and have been changed from within. This feeling. Despite this entire verse being written in the past tense. ‘kindness’. This means that the lives of these. ‘frost. because Brooke. ‘is’. coupled with the phrase. By personifying the waves in the line. In this stanza the writer creates a warm and positive atmosphere by using adjectives and words like. ‘all this is ended’ gives a sense of ambiguity and to a certain extent confuses the reader as to the motive of this poem. The erstwhile peace and calm in their mind has been transformed into noise and chatter. the poet begins by saying that ‘blown by… to laughter’. because they themselves are no more and they have died.’ This paints a joyous picture for the reader and gives along with it a sense of the good life of these soldiers before the war. having a pro- war mentality. ‘marvellously’ and wonder. In the second verse. The ‘frost’ that ‘stays the waves’ that too only with a small ‘gesture’ can be interpreted as the mixture of deadly disease and harsh climate that freezes the lives of these soldiers and . This indicates a contrast in the fact that at the present these emotions and actions are no more. despite the rest of the verse being written in the past tense.

This clears any doubt or confusion in the reader’s mind as it tells us that.e. concentrated glow under the night sky. This gives the reader a sense of hope. while this poem by Rupert Brooke is based on the much opposing concept of war and death. However there is a great contrast in the theme of this sonnet as compared to the Petrarchan sonnets. watching over us as they shine brightly with a white. which were based more on love and joy. these dead soldiers have died but live on in a ‘white unbroken glory’ that is ‘gathered’ and is ‘shining under the night. these last few lines can be interpreted with a reference to the stars. the phrase ‘leaves a white… shining peace’ signifies that even after dying these soldiers live on and have ‘radiance’. the poet talks about the ‘glory’ in dying for the greater good.therefore they cannot move. Here. these soldiers had ‘wonderful’ and positive lives before the war. but he tells us that by dying for their country they have gained a greater satisfaction and a greater meaning in life even after their death. and satisfaction.’ Hence it symbolizes these dead living on among us as stars in the sky. they had to leave it all behind. Thus. This refers to the immortality that they gain after sacrificing their lives for the country. yes. as such an idea is actually against the notion of war and may discourage readers from openly participating. The poet here also intergrates a Shakespearean epigrammatic twist in the last 2 lines that changes the mood and the meaning of the poem. Looking back at the style of the poem. i. the poet creates a large contrast between .. In this poem. it is written as a Petrarchan sonnet. Here. and yes. again the poet creates confusion in the readers’ mind as one is unsure whether the death of these soldiers can be a good thing. By changing his view on the war by explaining the importance and glory in dying in war the writer clears up all the confusion and contrasting emotions left behind by the last line of the 1st verse and the opening lines of the second verse. 14 lines separated into 2 verses of 8 and 6 lines respectively. Thus. ‘glory’ and ‘peace’.

He firstly highlights the positive points in life but almost overlooks the negative consequences. by refraining from mentioning things like the diseases. and the death soldiers as a waste of life.the first and second stanzas. while the second that is written in the present. Thus by telling the reader about common men and saying that the ‘DEAD’ don’t live like that he tries to emphasize on the probability of immortality that can only be attained by these extraordinary ‘Dead’. the blood. the pain that is to be borne by the soldiers. referring to it as over and finished. The first talks about the life of the soldiers and is written in the past tense. makes an attempt to justify death and thus say that it is unimportant and can be overlooked. tries to encourage the younger generation to join the war and this pro-war poem may probably come as an answer to anti-war poems by poets like Wilfred Owens and Siegfried Sassoon. Thus in this poem Rupert Brooke. Thus. the writer creates a contrast between these 2 different states of life by creating contrast in the readers mind by using opposing colours. Also Rupert Brooke in referring to the afterlife as glorious and better that the life of a common living man. refers to the afterlife. who refered to life in the trenches as torturous and miserable. and times of day. By Aashay Sheth XI – A . The poet here also uses euphemisms to downplay the negative effects of death. seasons.