When I was fourteen I used to lie around on the moldy-smelling day bed at the cottage at The Ledge when the tide was out reading Rupert Brooke, listening to recorded Strauss waltzes, and wrecking my teeth with MacIntosh's Taffy. What bliss.
After I was grown my mother and I were visiting one of my other great aunts, the one who was then in possession of the cottage and all that it contained. I came across the book on a low shelf, covered with dust, unread, unloved. "Oh, look," I said to my mother. "Rupert Brooke's book of poetry."
"Take it. Steal it," my mother said. It was the only thing she ever advised me to steal. I had a friend once whose mother used to take her to the supermarket, where they would both slip expensive cuts of meat into their pockets and underwear, but my mother was not that sort of person.
So I took it. When I got it home a dead moth fell out of the back cover, a miller, one of those big things. Someone must have squooshed it there on purpose. But the book was still full of deathless poetry. Here's one of my favorites:
V. The Soldier
If I should die, think only this of me:
That there's some corner of a foreign field
That is for ever England. There shall be
In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam,
A body of England's, breathing English air,
Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home.
And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;
Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,
In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.