Photograph of the Month

8 September - 30 September 2014

Room 31

Free



Rupert Brooke, by Sherrill Schell, April 1913 - NPG  - © reserved; collection National Portrait Gallery, London

Rupert Brooke
by Sherrill Schell
April 1913
NPG P1698

The display of this recent acquisition of Sherrill Schell’s portrait of Rupert Brooke highlights a selection of poets who wrote during First World War. Although civilians and women also wrote poems during this period, it was the soldier-poets who became associated with the title of ‘war poets.’

One of the most famous war poets was Rupert Brooke (1887-1915). His death on the journey to the Battle of Gallipoli in 1915 was widely covered by the British press who presented the young, talented and handsome Brooke as a martyr. Brooke saw little action during his service in the Navy and this is clear in the difference between the tone of his poems and those written by poets who fought in the trenches. Brooke’s poems speak of the patriotism of lost-youth whereas those who saw action recorded their revulsion at the inhumanity and shame they had witnessed. The portrait of Brook is shown alongside portraits of Edward Thomas, Edmund Blunden and Wilfrid Gibson.

At dawn the ridge emerges massed and dun 
In the wild purple of the glow'ring sun, 
Smouldering through spouts of drifting smoke that shroud
 
The menacing scarred slope; and, one by one, 
Tanks creep and topple forward to the wire. 
The barrage roars and lifts. Then, clumsily bowed
 
With bombs and guns and shovels and battle-gear, 
Men jostle and climb to meet the bristling fire. 
Lines of grey, muttering faces, masked with fear, 
They leave their trenches, going over the top, 
While time ticks blank and busy on their wrists, 
And hope, with furtive eyes and grappling fists, 
Flounders in mud. O Jesus, make it stop! 

Siegfried Sassoon, ‘Attack,’ published 1918

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