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Rupert Brooke (1887-1915)

The Old Vicarage, Grantchester


      *(Café des Westens, Berlin, May 1912)

              1Just now the lilac is in bloom,
              2All before my little room;
              3And in my flower-beds, I think,
              4Smile the carnation and the pink;
              5And down the borders, well I know,
              6The poppy and the pansy blow ...
              7Oh! there the chestnuts, summer through,
              8Beside the river make for you
              9A tunnel of green gloom, and sleep
            10Deeply above; and green and deep
            11The stream mysterious glides beneath,
            12Green as a dream and deep as death.
            13-- Oh, damn! I know it! and I know
            14How the May fields all golden show,
            15And when the day is young and sweet,
            16Gild gloriously the bare feet
            17That run to bathe ...
            18                                Du lieber Gott!
            19Here am I, sweating, sick, and hot,
            20And there the shadowed waters fresh
            21Lean up to embrace the naked flesh.
            22Temperamentvoll German Jews
            23Drink beer around; -- and there the dews
            24Are soft beneath a morn of gold.
            25Here tulips bloom as they are told;
            26Unkempt about those hedges blows
            27An English unofficial rose;
            28And there the unregulated sun
            29Slopes down to rest when day is done,
            30And wakes a vague unpunctual star,
            31A slippered Hesper; and there are
            32Meads towards Haslingfield and Coton
            33Where das Betreten's not verboten.

            34eithe genoimen ... would I were
            35In Grantchester, in Grantchester! --
            36Some, it may be, can get in touch
            37With Nature there, or Earth, or such.
            38And clever modern men have seen
            39A Faun a-peeping through the green,
            40And felt the Classics were not dead,
            41To glimpse a Naiad's reedy head,
            42Or hear the Goat-foot piping low: ...
            43But these are things I do not know.
            44I only know that you may lie
            45Day long and watch the Cambridge sky,
            46And, flower-lulled in sleepy grass,
            47Hear the cool lapse of hours pass,
            48Until the centuries blend and blur
            49In Grantchester, in Grantchester. ...
            50Still in the dawnlit waters cool
            51His ghostly Lordship swims his pool,
            52And tries the strokes, essays the tricks,
            53Long learnt on Hellespont, or Styx.
            54Dan Chaucer hears his river still
            55Chatter beneath a phantom mill.
            56Tennyson notes, with studious eye,
            57How Cambridge waters hurry by ...
            58And in that garden, black and white,
            59Creep whispers through the grass all night;
            60And spectral dance, before the dawn,
            61A hundred Vicars down the lawn;
            62Curates, long dust, will come and go
            63On lissom, clerical, printless toe;
            64And oft between the boughs is seen
            65The sly shade of a Rural Dean ...
            66Till, at a shiver in the skies,
            67Vanishing the Satanic cries,
            68The prim ecclesiastic rout
            69Leaves but a startled sleeper-out,
            70Grey heavens, the first bird's drowsy calls,
            71The falling house that never falls.

            72God! I will pack, and take a train,
            73And get me to England once again!
            74For England's the one land, I know,
            75Where men with Splendid Hearts may go;
            76And Cambridgeshire, of all England,
            77The shire for Men who Understand;
            78And of that district I prefer
            79The lovely hamlet Grantchester.
            80For Cambridge people rarely smile,
            81Being urban, squat, and packed with guile;
            82And Royston men in the far South
            83Are black and fierce and strange of mouth;
            84At Over they fling oaths at one,
            85And worse than oaths at Trumpington,

            86And Ditton girls are mean and dirty,
            87And there's none in Harston under thirty,
            88And folks in Shelford and those parts
            89Have twisted lips and twisted hearts,
            90And Barton men make Cockney rhymes,
            91And Coton's full of nameless crimes,
            92And things are done you'd not believe
            93At Madingley, on Christmas Eve.
            94Strong men have run for miles and miles,
            95When one from Cherry Hinton smiles;
            96Strong men have blanched, and shot their wives,
            97Rather than send them to St. Ives;
            98Strong men have cried like babes, bydam,
            99To hear what happened at Babraham.
          100But Grantchester! ah, Grantchester!
          101There's peace and holy quiet there,
          102Great clouds along pacific skies,
          103And men and women with straight eyes,
          104Lithe children lovelier than a dream,
          105A bosky wood, a slumbrous stream,
          106And little kindly winds that creep
          107Round twilight corners, half asleep.
          108In Grantchester their skins are white;
          109They bathe by day, they bathe by night;
          110The women there do all they ought;
          111The men observe the Rules of Thought.
          112They love the Good; they worship Truth;
          113They laugh uproariously in youth;
          114(And when they get to feeling old,
          115They up and shoot themselves, I'm told) ...

          116Ah God! to see the branches stir
          117Across the moon at Grantchester!
          118To smell the thrilling-sweet and rotten
          119Unforgettable, unforgotten
          120River-smell, and hear the breeze
          121Sobbing in the little trees.
          122Say, do the elm-clumps greatly stand
          123Still guardians of that holy land?
          124The chestnuts shade, in reverend dream,
          125The yet unacademic stream?
          126Is dawn a secret shy and cold
          127Anadyomene, silver-gold?
          128And sunset still a golden sea
          129From Haslingfield to Madingley?
          130And after, ere the night is born,
          131Do hares come out about the corn?
          132Oh, is the water sweet and cool,
          133Gentle and brown, above the pool?
          134And laughs the immortal river still
          135Under the mill, under the mill?
          136Say, is there Beauty yet to find?
          137And Certainty? and Quiet kind?
          138Deep meadows yet, for to forget
          139The lies, and truths, and pain? ... oh! yet
          140Stands the Church clock at ten to three?
          141And is there honey still for tea?

Notes

] Professor R. M. H. Shepherd, Department of Classics, University College, Toronto, has contributed generously to make the notes for this poem both complete and accurate.

1] The Café des Westens, a gathering-place for artists, stood "at a cross-roads near the station in Charlottenburg called the Zoo" (Christopher Hassall, Rupert Brooke: A Biography [London: Faber and Faber, 1964]: 339; PR 6003 R4 Z67 Robarts Library).
Brooke lived at the Old Vicarage, a three-storey red-brick house in Grantchester, a village about four kilometres southwest of Cambridge.

8] the river: the Granta is a smallish tributary stream that enters the larger Camwell to the south of Grantchester, near the Shelfords: thus the river that flows north to Cambridge after passing between Grantchester and Trumpington is strictly speaking the Cam but is miscalled Granta until it enters Cambridge.

18] "Dear God!" (German).

22] Temperamentvoll: high-spirited (German).

31] Hesper: the evening star (Venus).

32] Haslingfield: a village eight kilometres southwest of Cambridge. For information about the small Cambridge-vicinity villages that Brooke enumerates here, see Denis Cheason's The Cambridgeshire of Rupert Brooke: An Illustrated Guide (Waterbeach: D. Cheason, 1980; DA 670 C2C5 Robarts Library).
Coton: a village four kilometres west of Cambridge.

33] das Betreten's not verboten: entering is not forbidden (German).

34] eithe genoimen: literally "if only I could be" (Greek; the original characters are transliterated into the Roman alphabet in this edition), an expression Brooke translates in the second half of the line as "would I were."

41] Naiad: water nymph in classical myth.

42] Goat-foot: Pan with his reed-pipe.

51] His ghostly Lordship: Lord Byron, a Cambridge student, gave his name to "Byron's Pool," which is just outside Grantchester at the local road that crosses the Granta to Trumpington. Cf. John Lehmann, Rupert Brooke: His Life and Legend (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1980): 48.

53] Hellespont: the Dardanelles, a strait linking the Aegean Sea with the Sea of Marmara in Turkey that Byron swam in 1809.
Styx: the river over which the dead are ferried into Hades.

54] Dan Chaucer: Geoffrey Chaucer, who set the bawdy Reeve's Tale just outside Cambridge, at its boundary with Grantchester, where a great mill stood then and where one still existedwhen Brooke wrote this poem. The term "Dan" is an honorific.

56] Tennyson: Alfred lord Tennyson, poet laureate during much of the Victorian period.

63] lissom: lithe.

82] Royston: a town twenty kilometres southwest of Cambridge.

84] Over: a village fourteen kilometres northwest of Cambridge.

85] Trumpington: once a village, now a suburb of Cambridge to the eastof the Granta. All the places named here were villages in Brooke's day, not parts of suburban Cambridge.

86] Ditton: Green Ditton and Little Ditton are villages five kilometres southwest of Cambridge.

87] Harston: a village nine kilometres southwest of Cambridge.

88] Shelford: Great and Little Shelford, twin villages, now suburban, seven kilometres south of Cambridge on opposite sides of the Cam.

90] Barton: a village five kilometres southwest of Cambridge.
Cockney rhymes: bad rhymes (i.e., true only if one speaksthe working-class dialect of east London).

93] Madingley: a village six kilometres northwest of Cambridge.

95] Cherry Hinton: a former village, now absorbed by Cambridge.

97] St. Ives: a town on the Ouse River, about twenty kilometres northwest of Cambridge.

99] Babraham: a village eleven kilometres southeast of Cambridge.

105] bosky: woody.

127] Anadyomene: Aphrodite (Roman Venus) rising from the sea as depicted by the classical painter Apelles. "Anadyomene" is a Greek participle and the full phrase is "Aphrodite Anadyomene." "APHROS" is Greek for 'foam,' and so the Greeks saw it in the name "Aphrodite" in view of her birth-myth.

141] The Neeses, who lived at the Old Heritage, kept beehives on the property (Hassall, p. 263).


Online text copyright © 2003, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto.
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries.

Original text: 1914 & other Poems (London: Sidgwick & Jackson, 1915): 59-63. PR 6003 R4N5 copy 2 Robarts Library
First publication date: 1912
Publication date note: "Fragments from a Poem to be entitled `The Sentimental Exile,'" Basileon B 14 (June 1912): 3-4; The Poetry Review 1.11 (Nov. 1912)
RPO poem editor: Ian Lancashire
RP edition: RPO 1999.
Recent editing: 2:2001/11/15*1:2003/2/6

Composition date: 1912
Form: octosyllabic couplets


Other poems by Rupert Brooke