Study Guide

The Soldier Quotes

  • Death

    If I should die, think only this of me,
        That there's some corner of a foreign field
    That is forever England (1-3)

    The speaker is not afraid of death at all. He expresses no reservations or terror about the unknown. Later in the poem, it becomes clear why this is so: death is merely the beginning of a new, more peaceful afterlife.

    […] There shall be
        In that rich earth a richer dust concealed (3-4)

    The speaker avoids talking about death directly. He uses "dust" instead of "corpse," and "concealed" instead of "buried." This could mean that he's afraid to talk about death too openly, or it could mean that he doesn't think of death in conventional ways.

    A body of England's, breathing English air,
        Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home (7-8)

    After using the word dust, the speaker firmly reminds us that he's talking about a dead soldier. The word "body" makes us think of a lifeless corpse, not a human being.

        A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
          Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given (10-11)

    The speaker imagines death as a return home. After death, the speaker re-experiences all of his English memories. The only way soldiers will ever know the life they knew before the war is by dying and going to heaven.

  • Warfare

    If I should die, think only this of me,
        That there's some corner of a foreign field
    That is forever England (1-3)

    Wars are sometimes fought over small things. In this line, all the speaker's death gets for England is a "corner," which sounds like a really small amount of land. It's hard not to detect some sarcasm in Brooke's lines here. Or do you think he seriously thinks that validates his sacrifice?

                                          There shall be
        In that rich earth a richer dust concealed (3-4)

    The speaker reminds his audience of one of the grim realities of war. Many soldiers will not make it home, but rather will die and be buried on the battlefield ("concealed").

    A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware (5)

    War is destructive. You might even say that it reduces everything to "dust," even people. The speaker unwittingly describes war's destructive power by referring to himself as nothing more than dust.

  • Patriotism

    If I should die, think only this of me,
        That there's some corner of a foreign field
    That is forever England (1-3)

    The speaker's patriotism is evident in the fact that, when thinking about his own death, the "only" thing he really thinks about is how it will benefit his country. England will acquire a "corner of a foreign field." (Of course, he might be convincing himself that his death will be a worthy sacrifice, too.)

    A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
        Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam (5-6)

    The speaker's love for his country is reflected in the way he perceives her as a mother, a parental figure that "bore" him and "shaped" him. He is willing to die for his country because she raised him and made him who he is.

           In hearts at peace, under an English heaven (14)

    The speaker's Englishness permeates all aspects of his life. He's so pro-England that he even imagines heaven as just another England, for criminey's sake. It is an "English heaven" complete with all that "thoughts by England given" (11).

  • Man and the Natural World

                                   […] There shall be
        In that rich earth a richer dust concealed (3-4)

    The word "rich" suggests that the natural world—land—has a value. It is worth so much, sometimes, that people will kill for it. It is, however, not worth as much as human life, which is "richer."

    A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware (5)

    The natural world is given a big role here. "England" is a country, but it is also land—rivers, mountains, hills, etc. The natural world gave birth to the soldier, "shaped" him, "made" him "aware." Keep an eye on that. The natural world's role will be stressed again later.

    A body of England's, breathing English air,
        Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home (7-8)

    The passive construction here is interesting. The rivers and the suns do all the work, all the washing and blessing. This points to the active role that one's natural surroundings play in one's development as a human being.

    Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
        And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,
          In hearts at peace, under an English heaven (12-14)

    In death, the speaker is reunited with the natural world that "bore" and "shaped" him. In the "English heaven," he re-experiences England's "sights and sounds," which must in part refer to her natural features (rivers, hills, animals, and the like).