With Armistice Day remembered this week, I’ve been rereading one of my favorite war poets: Rupert Brooke. That said, while he is now best known for his World War I sonnets, I prefer his earlier writing, which reveals a more cynical, vitriolic writer. In “Menelaus and Helen,” Brooke envisions an aged and gruesome Helen who “weeps, gummy-eyed and impotent; / Her dry shanks twitch at Paris’ mumbled name.” He reserves equal scorn for his contemporaries, from the “noise of a fool in mock distress” who came and “quacked” beside him in a tranquil wood to the girl who left him for an older man, envisioning her future of
A foul sick fumbling dribbling body and old,
When his rare lips hang flabby and can’t hold
Slobber, and you’re enduring that worst thing,
Senility’s queasy furtive love-making.