I was a bit peeved with Leonard Cohen for quite a while. I had set Lord Byron’s poem So we’ll no more go a’roving to music, and was quite pleased with myself for it. Then, a few years later, our Len did the same thing. I am not suggesting, of course, that he copied me. The problem was that people might think I had copied him.
Anyway, it is the local dog park concert today, and I was being encouraged to sing and play something. So I have set a Rupert Brooke poem to music. I discovered Brooke when I was 17: there was a copy of his collected poems in my grandmother’s house. It was a surprise to me, because like most 17 years olds, I imagined all parents and grandparents, agreeable as they were, as a bit lacking in the poetic passion department. He was of course then – in the swinging sixties – and still is today, deeply unfashionable, but in his own day, and at the time of the Great War, he was huge. Born in 1887, he was academically brilliant, good-looking, charming and much admired by other literary figures in the pre-war years. Commissioned as a navy officer having been brought to the attention of Winston Churchill, he was on his way to Gallipoli when he died of septicaemia following an infected mosquito bite. He was buried on the Aegean island of Skiros. He was 27 years old.
He is best known for his patriotic stuff:
If I should die, think only this of me:
That there’s some corner of a foreign field
That is for ever England.
But it is his dry wit and his sense of fun which allows him to venture Continue reading