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Rupert Brooke: The Fish

In a cool curving world he lies
And ripples with dark ecstasies.
The kind luxurious lapse and steal
Shapes all his universe to feel
And know and be; the clinging stream
Closes his memory, glooms his dream,
Who lips the roots o' the shore, and glides
Superb on unreturning tides.
Those silent waters weave for him
A fluctuant mutable world and dim,
Where wavering masses bulge and gape
Mysterious, and shape to shape
Dies momently through whorl and hollow,
And form and line and solid follow
Solid and line and form to dream
Fantastic down the eternal stream;
An obscure world, a shifting world,
Bulbous, or pulled to thin, or curled,
Or serpentine, or driving arrows,
Or serene slidings, or March narrows.
There slipping wave and shore are one,
And weed and mud. No ray of sun,
But glow to glow fades down the deep
(As dream to unknown dream in sleep);
Shaken translucency illumes
The hyaline of drifting glooms;
The strange soft-handed depth subdues
Drowned colour there, but black to hues,
As death to living, decomposes --
Red darkness of the heart of roses,
Blue brilliant from dead starless skies,
And gold that lies behind the eyes,
The unknown unnameable sightless white
That is the essential flame of night,
Lustreless purple, hooded green,
The myriad hues that lie between
Darkness and darkness! . . .

                    And all's one.
Gentle, embracing, quiet, dun,
The world he rests in, world he knows,
Perpetual curving. Only -- grows
An eddy in that ordered falling,
A knowledge from the gloom, a calling
Weed in the wave, gleam in the mud --
The dark fire leaps along his blood;
Dateless and deathless, blind and still,
The intricate impulse works its will;
His woven world drops back; and he,
Sans providence, sans memory,
Unconscious and directly driven,
Fades to some dank sufficient heaven.
O world of lips, O world of laughter,
Where hope is fleet and thought flies after,
Of lights in the clear night, of cries
That drift along the wave and rise
Thin to the glittering stars above,
You know the hands, the eyes of love!
The strife of limbs, the sightless clinging,
The infinite distance, and the singing
Blown by the wind, a flame of sound,
The gleam, the flowers, and vast around
The horizon, and the heights above --
You know the sigh, the song of love!
But there the night is close, and there
Darkness is cold and strange and bare;
And the secret deeps are whisperless;
And rhythm is all deliciousness;
And joy is in the throbbing tide,
Whose intricate fingers beat and glide
In felt bewildering harmonies
Of trembling touch; and music is
The exquisite knocking of the blood.
Space is no more, under the mud;
His bliss is older than the sun.
Silent and straight the waters run.
The lights, the cries, the willows dim,
And the dark tide are one with him.

Munich, March 1911.

Public Domain

Rupert Chawner Brooke (1887 – 1915) was an English poet known for his patriotic war sonnets written during the First World War, especially “The Soldier” as well as a few of his early poems such as “The Fish.” Brooke sailed with the British Mediterranean Expeditionary Force on 28 February 1915 but developed sepsis from an infected mosquito bite. He died on 23 April 1915, on a French hospital ship in the Aegean Sea, while on his way to the landing at Gallipoli. Brooke was buried in an olive grove on the Greek island of Skyros.

8 comments on “Rupert Brooke: The Fish

  1. Patricia McMillen
    September 2, 2022

    Wow, sepsis is maybe the last thing I’d expect from a mosquito bite. Lovely poem.

    Like

    • Vox Populi
      September 3, 2022

      Yes, it was a common cause of death before the discovery of antibiotics.

      M.

      >

      Like

  2. loranneke
    September 2, 2022

    Those liquid, enjambed rhymes. Oh my.

    Like

    • Vox Populi
      September 2, 2022

      I love it that I have a website where a person uses a phrase like “Those liquid, enjambed rhymes.” You are so wonderful, Laure-Anne!

      >

      Like

  3. johnlawsonpoet
    September 2, 2022

    Wow, I knew Brooke’s war poetry, but this is my first exposure to his peacetime work. A new door opens.

    Like

  4. Sean Sexton
    September 2, 2022

    He is whole milk—
    to Hopkins heavy whipping cream.
    Both essential to my world!

    Like

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