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The Chilterns -- Rupert Brooke

(Poem #514) The Chilterns
 Your hands, my dear, adorable,
 Your lips of tenderness
 - Oh, I've loved you faithfully and well,
 Three years, or a bit less.
 It wasn't a success.

 Thank God, that's done! and I'll take the road,
 Quit of my youth and you,
 The Roman road to Wendover
 By Tring and Lilley Hoo,
 As a free man may do.

 For youth goes over, the joys that fly,
 The tears that follow fast;
 And the dirtiest things we do must lie
 Forgotten at the last;
 Even love goes past.

 What's left behind I shall not find,
 The splendor and the pain;
 The splash of sun, the shouting wind,
 And the brave sting of rain,
 I may not meet again.

 But the years, that take the best away,
 Give something in the end;
 And a better friend than love have they,
 For none to mar or mend,
 That have themselves to friend.

 I shall desire and I shall find
 The best of my desires;
 The autumn road, the mellow wind
 That soothes the darkening shires.
 And laughter, and inn-fires.

 White mist about the black hedgerows,
 The slumbering Midland plain,
 The silence where the clover grows,
 And the dead leaves in the lane,
 Certainly, these remain.

 And I shall find some girl perhaps,
 And a better one than you,
 With eyes as wise, but kindlier,
 With lips as soft, but true.
 And I daresay she will do.
-- Rupert Brooke
Note: The Chilterns are an English range of hills

Today's poem works on a number of levels. It certainly has a touch of
humour, or at least a rather bitter sense of irony, but it is certainly not
a humorous poem - it is at heart both serious and passionate, with a
somewhat morbid outlook remniniscent of Housman, though always balanced by
an element of deft self-mockery.

There is also a strong dash of the 'open road' theme (presaged by the poem's
title), the symbolic connection between wandering and leaving one's past
behind made explicit. And to round things off, the ever popular 'she left
me, but life goes on' theme - which merely goes to prove that unoriginality
of sentiment hurts a good poem not at all.


The salient feature of today's poem is clearly the 'extra' line at the end
of each verse. The fifth line serves a dual purpose - it breaks the flow of
the poem, emphasising each verse in isolation, and it provides the perfect
place to either change the mood of, and seamlessly comment on, the preceding
quatrain, or wrap it up with a decisive image or pronouncement.


The two poets who instantly spring to mind are A. E. Housman and Dorothy
Parker. See, for instance, the former's "When I was One and Twenty":
  poem #86
and the latter's "A Well-Worn Story":
  [broken link]

Other poets who can flawlessly walk that fine line between pain and
flippancy include Millay, Teasdale and Betjeman - I don't have any
particular poems in mind at the moment, but all of them are well worth

We've run one Brooke poem in the past: poem #280

Which links to a biography:

and a commentary on today's poem (recommended - it has a nice appraisal of
Brooke with reference to his times):


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