The following is an essay by Dr Mark Rawlinson of the University of Leicester, reprinted by kind permission of the author.
Although a coeval of Auden and Spender, Jocelyn Brooke’s public literary career was post-Second World War, and indeed it followed on from an episode of re-enlistment. Brooke bought himself out of the Army and in the last three years of the forties he published two novels, The Scapegoat (1948) and Image of a Drawn Sword (1950), another pot-boiling fiction for children, three volumes of fictionalised autobiography later collected as The Orchid Trilogy – The Military Orchid (1948), The Mine of Serpents (1949) and The Goose Cathedral (1950) – and a book of poems. Two further memoirs, another novel and much literary critical and editorial work (on Firbank, Bowen, Welch and Huxley) would follow by 1955.
Brooke’s writing in the late forties is haunted by soldiers, though in a manner that makes it stand apart from the war literature of the latter half of the decade. Contemporaries were writing fiction about the war years – the Home Front (Elizabeth Bowen, Patrick Hamilton), resistance and prisoners of war (Charles Morgan, Nevil Shute), D Day and after (Alexander Baron, Colin MacInnes) – or their immediate aftermath; demobilization (J.B. Priestley, Henry Green) and the Allied occupation of Germany (Graham Greene, Jack Aistrop). But, as the first Cold War set in, Brooke published an interlocking sequence of prose works in which the militarization of civil life correlates not with the disasters and triumphs of resistance to Nazism, but with the formation of sexual identity. In The Orchid Trilogy, wartime service in the RAMC is a comic resolution of the trials of a personality divided since childhood, a ‘ninetyish’ aesthetic sensibility longing for, and fearing of, the masculine ideal embodied in the enlisted man, an ambivalent figure which points up the subject’s difference. Furthermore, the troubling of masculinity and of normative symbols of the military elicited by Brooke’s work is rooted in a writing of region, the coast and uplands of the author’s East Kent birthplace.
In the context of the conservative sexual and gender paradigms which were articulated alongside national and anti-Communist identities in the period after 1945, notably in literary and cinematic representations of the collective and individual endeavours of the late war, Brooke’s novels and autobiography now appear unmistakeably radical. However the volume and generic diversity of his published output suggests a ready accomodation with post-war literary institutions. In the light of these observations, Brooke’s precariousness and marginality in the history of twentieth-century writing (despite notable reprintings since the early 1980s) indicates a reception which has conveniently identified Brooke with the figure of the belated outsider ironised in his Orchid Trilogy. The description of his fiction as Kafkaesque, aligning it with a European modernist tradition, is an act of saving compartmentalization which underplays the way his work is affiliated to, and reconstellates, traditions of English regional and topographical literature. It is in these terms, and attending to the ways in which Brooke’s fictional recasting of the private myths of his sexual identity presents England as a militarized landscape, that this essay will seek to place his work.
The pleasures of Brooke’s autobiographical writing lie in the subtly self-debunking narration of difference and failure, the ironic candour with which he treats the theme of the child as ‘polymorphous pervert’, and above all, in the uniquely libidinal and numinous renderings of actual and imagined topographies. 
Horn Street led not only to Pericar Woods but also to the mysterious territory, where, as I was told, “the soldiers lived”; bugles called sadly over the hillsides, beyond the woods, and one was apt to encounter, suddenly and without warning, groups of red-faced men in khaki who would sometimes laugh at us or shout rude remarks as we passed. They terrified me – but only for so long as they were in sight; once we were safely past them, my terror gave place to excited imaginings: I liked to think of myself as one of those laughing, devil-may-care heroes inhabiting the high, wind-swept plateau of Shorncliffe Camp. How old did one have to be (I would ask) before one could be a soldier? At least eighteen, I was told. I was seven – I had eleven years to wait; my ambition, I felt, would hardly survive for as long as that. Besides (as I knew perfectly well), I wasn’t that sort of person: I was “different”.
I resigned myself to less exacting phantasies; and the red-faced, swaggering heroes of Horn Street were duly translated into smaller, more manageable versions of themselves; nesting in the undercliff, or confined in wire cages in my private “Zoo” – half human, half-animal, smooth-faced fauns with putteed legs and (protruding from their khaki-covered buttocks) small white tails like the scuts of rabbits. 
Brooke’s represented places, largely confined to Kentish downland and the Mediterranean scenes of wartime service, are invariably enchanted or haunted by the presence of soldiers, a presence that he turns to strange and dissonant effects.
Joseph Bristow has written illuminatingly about the personality unfolded in The Orchid Trilogy:
he remained mesmerized by soldiering. It was not just that he, like so many aesthetes of his class, was attracted to the military. Brooke eventually realized that he could not only have the kind of man he desired, he could be one himself. 
He was also mesmerized by his own writing. To an extent to which can have few parallels, Brooke repeated himself. In his six books from the forties, motifs recur from one to another, if not verbatim, then with a disconcerting similarity of lexis, idiom or cadence. These patterns suggest, by turns, obsession or a shameless economy of invention (The Wonderful Summer of 1949 recycles the botanical and pyrotechnical reveries of contemporary The Military Orchid and A Mine of Serpents in a formulaic children’s novel). These first two volumes of fictionalised autobiography are themselves ‘two sets of variations upon the same or similar thematic material’.  Prefacing the third volume, he wrote: ‘To force my material into novel form would involve a Procrustean distortion of the theme’, blithely passing over the fact that this is precisely what he had done in his two contemporary novels. The Scapegoat and Image of a Drawn Sword, set, respectively before and after the Second World War, have the same ending, which is twice an artistic failure, to some extent justifying the preference for the ‘hybrid’ form of the trilogy, and perhaps explaining the oversight. But each novel is also a tremendous and fantastic topographical extrapolation of the subjects and phrases of his poetry and autobiography.
There is something hermetic or closeted about Brooke’s work, which a biographical reading might seek to explain in terms of his homosexuality, his near life-long habitation of East Kent, or of the belatedness of a writing career that began in his forties and not a little of which is devoted to examining his failure to become a writer twenty years earlier. Anthony Powell has called Brooke’s oeuvre ‘an art not like that of any other writer known to me in its manner of marking out a region, both actual and imagined, a magical personal kingdom’.  It is a world of limits, of the circumferences of remembered juvenile experience. In the concentrically expanding but egocentric territory of the self’s contact with others, the most pregnant places are the margins of the landscape, where ‘the soldiers lived’. But, especially where these limits appear to be limitations in his work – geographical and thematic repetition, inescapable self-citation – they are also the source of a vision of England which is not ultimately private at all. The ‘afternoon land’ of remembered childhood in the hinterland of Folkestone (renamed Glamber in his fiction), a region ‘not marked on the ordnance map’, strikes up complex resonances amongst more familiar literary treatments of the symbolic matrix of English nature and twentieth-century war.  Bugles ‘that called sadly over the hillsides’ do more than just echo Owen’s ‘bugles calling them from sad shires’ from ‘Anthem for Doomed Youth’ or Keith Douglas’s cynically sentimental ‘Sportsmen’, written in Tunisia in 1943: ‘Listen/against the bullet cries the simple horn’.  The martial sounds reverberating across Brooke’s imagined England bring a military-pastoral nexus to a state of excess which can only serve to draw its contradictions into the light of day.
‘Landscape near Tobruk’, by B. J. Brooke (born 1908, educated at Bedales and Oxford, and serving in the RAMC in Italy) was published in Penguin New Writing’s Poetry Supplement in 1944. On the face of it, Brooke’s appearance as a wartime author, a serviceman-poet, amounted to just another lyric about campaigning in North Africa over terrain that swiftly covered up the traces of war. The desert is a ‘lunar land’, which inhibits the mind’s ‘habitual/And easy gestures’, particularly its emotional investments in ‘green/And virginal countryside’. This ‘hard/And calcined earth’ is, as Adam Piette suggests, ‘pure abroad’, resistant to the kind of domesticating vision that transformed Flanders, in the words of David Jones, into ‘South English places’.  Even the living disappear into the featureless landscape:
The soldiers camped
In the rock-strewn wadi merge
Like lizard or jerboa in the brown
And neutral ambient: stripped at gunsite,
Or splashing like glad beasts at sundown in
The brackish pool, their smooth
And lion-coloured bodies seem
The indigenous fauna of an unexplored,
Unspoiled country […] 
Full of such surprises, the desert required of its many wartime poets a concerted effort to read it as a battlefield.
Four years on, in The Scapegoat, Brooke’s first published novel, the scene is pre-war Kent:
He leaned over the gate, his eyes fixed on the distant woods. Presently a sound of heavy, regular footsteps in the road distracted him. A column of soldiers was coming round the corner: one of the battalions in training at the neighbouring barracks. Weighed down with the cumbrous webbing-equipment, sweating in spite of the cold, their raw, meat-red faces surly beneath steel-helmets, they passed heavily down the narrow lane. To Duncan, the soldiers seemed an integral part of the landscape, the indigenous fauna of an unexplored, unfriendly country. 
That Libya is ‘unspoiled’ was a commonplace, but the unfriendliness of Kent is more puzzling, until we learn more about the significance in Brooke’s work of the actual and imagined presence of soldiers. Their indigenousness is a different matter. That they appear native to the Libyan wadi conforms to an irony familiar to readers of war poetry: nature is not merely indifferent to the fate of soldier males in battle, it treacherously camouflages their intentions to injure each other. But their niche in the ecology of Kent conspires to transform English nature into a militarized realm which is at once seductive and terrifying.
There is something else troubling about this repetition, which is worth lingering over, and another wartime poem helps to clarify the issue. The nude figures in F.T.Prince’s much-anthologised ‘Soldiers Bathing’, it is often assumed, are sporting in warm North African waters. But the men Prince wrote about were plunging into the North Sea near Scarborough.  If the habitual mislocation does not significantly revise interpretations of the poem, it does suggest the extent to which, no less than is the case with 1914-18, apprehensions of the violence of the Second World War are mediated by landscape and place. Brooke’s reiteration of the image of ‘indigenous fauna’ is offensive to this reflex of geographically compartmentalizing the events of 1939-1945 (which has been a key factor in the selective displacement of larger historical and political meanings in the national memory of war). The repetition appears too blatant a suppression of contexts.
Of his wartime service in Italy, Brooke wrote: ‘Here, as in Africa, the flowers were near enough to those of Northern Europe to strike a familiar note.’  (Auden, too, mapped the scenes of an English childhood onto Italian terrain in his exactly contemporaneous ‘In Praise of Limestone’). But the psychic impacts of these places are distinct; Southern landscapes ‘had none of that mysteriousness, that hint of the au delà, which lurks always in the English countryside’.  Where the desert refused the mark of military presence, the English countryside in Brooke’s writing is a truly militarized space, one that bears indelible traces of soldiering. The Army does not despoil the landscape, as many mid-century conservationists would have it, but is integral to the ‘vague, rather frightening yet perversely seductive aura of evil’ with which its limits are associated.  Brooke was not carelessly relocating an image of overseas conflict in a weary and incomplete demobilization of the wartime imagination. He was bringing military fauna back home to an environment in which the camouflaging of its violent purposes was not a tactical necessity but a culturally-coded vision of Englishness. Whatever Brooke’s motives, his books from the late-forties reactivate and transfigure the peculiarly parochial gloss which English culture has placed on twentieth-century war. And they invite us to reassess that culture’s residual, contradictory but by no means redundant articulations of the military and native soil.
Ronald Firbank, a writer in whom Brooke recognised his own atonal counterpoint of the sentimental and the self-mocking, had a habit of collecting phrases: ‘he was a careless worker in some respects – he would inadvertantly use them twice over’.  But when Brooke echoes himself verbally, literally returning over the same ground, he does so with a self-consciousness that recalls another maker of lists, James Joyce. ‘Landscape near Tobruk’ resurfaces six years on in an account of Brooke’s period of post-war reenlistment:
‘What’s to do?’ I said.
‘F- all, at the moment. There’s a pile of eleven-fifty-sevens wants checking sometime, but that’ll do after dinner.’
‘I’m easy,’ I said.
Corporal Bradnum settled down to the Daily Mirror crossword; his mate read a very old number of Illustrated.
‘Word of seven letters beginning with C, meaning “heat to a high temperature”,’ said the corporal. 
The answer, which the educated Brooke can of course supply, is calcine, the alchemical term that as clap-wallah-poet he had used to describe the burnt desert earth. The anecdote underlines a determination to go into exile from a literary world to which he has yet to gain admittance, and to evade the certainty of failure. In the manner of T. E. Lawrence’s enlistment as Aircraftsman Shaw, he submerges self in a deliberate return to an impersonal disciplinary culture. Freedom from responsibility in the Army is preferred to the ‘prospect of becoming a professional littérateur‘:
I knew the booksy racket too well: a succès d’estime with a first novel; reviewing of the Statesman or the Times Lit. Supp., a talk or two on the Third Programme. Then another book: not so successful. (‘I confess to being disappointed with Mr. X’s new novel…’); more reviewing, more talks; an essay or two on some obscure minor writer for the Cornhill; and then the gradual decline, through anthologies, ‘introductions’ and light middles, to a weekly causerie in John O’London or a staff-job in the BBC… No, no, I thought: I would as soon be helping Corporal Bradnum with his crossword […] 
Burying his own published words in the laconic exchanges that pass time in the battalion store while inventorying the kit of demobbed soldiers, Brooke purports to resist his belle lettriste destiny. The fiction he was writing at the time does little to challenge the self-critical reserve manifested by this fantasy. ‘Blackthorn Winter’, a story of unconsummated and unpatriotic heterosexual desire, is banal even by the uneven standards of Penguin New Writing:
She sat down by the window, twisting her handkerchief in her hand (sic), but dry-eyed: looking out across the rain-sodden fields, and the hedges with their falling blossom, towards the row of empty Nissen huts which were all that was left of the camp. 
But within a year, and the appearance of The Scapegoat, ‘truck with the soldiers’ – which raises only ripples of village gossip in ‘Blackthorn Winter’ – has become, in the words of the gay novelist Peter Cameron, ‘almost unbelievably subversive and kinky’.  Later, in The Image of the Drawn Sword, those empty Nissen huts are translated into a numinous site with immemorial military associations, the scene of a ‘queer caper’: intimacy between men is mysteriously bound up with a bizarre eruption of the phantasmagoria of soldiering which sees the imposition of martial law across Kent. The compelling but disquieting qualities of the scenery on which Brooke writes and rewrites his personal myths are the most striking aspects of his literary efflorescence. In Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway, Peter Walsh, the returning Imperialist functionary, is overtaken by the patter of English militarism, ‘like the patter of leaves in a wood’:
Boys in uniform, carrying guns, marched with their eyes ahead of them, marched, their arms stiff, and on their faces an expression like the letters of a legend written round the base of a statue praising duty, gratitude, fidelity, love of England. 
The visages of Brooke’s ‘bum-faced’ soldiery connote another kind of love, and his writing is a sexual subversion of bellicose nationalism.  Arguably, these dissonant meanings are most potent where they rooted in a landscape which is not bucolic but militarized, as if some native hydra’s teeth had sprouted khaki troopers in every valley and rockery.
In The Scapegoat secret places are a margin between civilian and military life, and Kent becomes a highly sexualised and liminal realm. Fantasy is literalised in a struggle which, against the background of an environment pregnant with threat, builds up to an alarming brutality. Brooke concatenates the imaginative perversity of adolescence and the disappointments of maturity (which are subtly played off against each other in The Orchid Trilogy) in a generational war: ‘sexual abnormality, though it may seem a bearable misfortune in youth, is less easy to come to terms with in middle-age’. 
Orphaned at thirteen, Duncan Cameron is transplanted from the ’rounded and perfect world’ of his West Country childhood to the ‘masculine hardness’ of Kent, duplicated in the ‘austere masculinity’ of his uncle Gerald’s farmhouse.  An only son of a widowed mother, Duncan’s rite of passage is the ‘logical conclusion’ of childhood ‘crazes’: botanizing, fireworks, ‘the rabbit-scutted soldiers in the shrubbery’ (28). Duncan’s wild soldiers reappear in Brooke’s memoir Private View as the imaginary inhabitants (toy soldiers, sometimes airmen) of ‘closely guarded and anonymous “places” – those countries of the mind which lay, now, remote and unapproachable, beyond the Iron Curtain of puberty’.  The Scapegoat narrates sexual awakening as a penetration of a militarized landscape which, no longer just a projection of childhood play, materializes as the source of subversive compulsions. Brooke’s cold war metaphor for the land of lost content is characteristic of a sceptical relegation of public events to the status of private alibis. But the cumulative effect of this refracting of modern military history through the remembered rural scenes of early upbringing is, oddly, to remind us of the facility with which English literary culture has pastoralised its memory of war. The reiterative figuration of the soldier as object of homosexual desire in Brooke’s writing creates a landscape at once peculiar and familiar, its subversive character not accountable to the erotic subtext alone, but in significant measure to the way national ideologies of war are made literal. Autochthonic myths of the defence of the island realm – resistance springing from the soil in a spontaneously militant patriotism which contrasts with the modernity of post-Napoleonic standing armies on the Continent – have come true, with soldiers sprouting up everywhere.
Duncan first cannot avoid them, then seeks them out. Entrained for his new home, he falls in with a soldier posted to the hinterland of Folkestone, Brooke’s birthplace. In a hastening of his destiny, Duncan is invited to share a cigarette in a rehearsal of the kind of exchange that traditionally cements the strangely domestic camaraderie of the other ranks:
And we stretched out, unbuttoning our braces,
Smoking a Woodbine, darning dirty socks […] 
Brooke’s Woodbine – with its appropriately floral name – is the olfactory compliment of the bugle’s call, one of the author’s Englished versions of the Proustian madeleine:
The pungent flavour of the cigarette seemed to him a concentrated essence of that fainter, more diffused odour which exhaled from the soldier himself – an alien, mysterious smell, partly tobacco, partly the warm body-reek of sweat and stale urine; to Duncan it seemed the very odour of heroism, an exhalation from the battlefield (10).
In The Orchid Trilogy, sensations are chronologically promiscuous, they do not only cast the mind back into a lost past, but symbolize the core conflicts of adult experience. The Scapegoat collapses these temporalities to produce a more direct confrontation between libido and repression. The plot is a contest between the seductive appeal of the objects of youthful imaginative investment and avuncular authority. Gerald, striving to make a man of Duncan, is no longer himself man enough: at forty-five his physique is collapsing, he can only regret resigning his commission, and the coming war appears on the horizon as a relief from agricultural depression and psychological ennui. He imposes on his nephew the discipline to which he would submit himself, but the boy is already crossing to the other side in an ‘undeclared war’ (108). Watching troops in ‘skin-tight singlets’ running cross-country, Duncan experiences a ‘sense of fulfilment’ realizing they ‘were no longer the strange fauna of an alien country, but co-habitants, comrades in a world to which himself now irrevocably belonged: a hard world, but no longer hostile, a soldier’s land’ (47).
This sense of affiliation comes upon him in a ‘bad place’, a barren wood-enclosed field called California, its scarry mysteriousness almost ludicrously over-charged by the presence of a trilithon (shades of Hardy’s Stonehenge in Tess), piles of dead vermin, a maggot-infested sheep’s carcass and stinking hellebore with its ‘unpleasant mousy tang of hemlock’.  Duncan awaits its occupation by military allies in his struggle against his uncle’s punitive regime. His thieving from his uncle for Jim Tylor, the soldier on the train, brings the repressed world of the farm to crisis. But visits to the camp also provoke a horrifying materialization of the vague content of his ‘secret phantasies’, in the vulgar, physical, unself-conscious and highly ambiguous sexual charge that envelops the regimented community of soldier males. Tylor’s tattooed white flesh, bearing a variant of the serpent mark that represents an atavistic bond of service in The Image of a Drawn Sword, proleptically figures Duncan’s blood-smeared corpse at the novel’s end.
More subtle previsions are compelled by the interanimation of imagination and topography. Duncan’s state of fearful libidinousness makes him sensitive to an ‘abnormal’ landscape echoing with indistinct sounds of horns or singing: ‘there weren’t any soldiers – not then, when I first heard it’ (99). These unaccountable signs are Gerald’s first clue that there is something hidden in the local terrain; disputing the source of Duncan’s noises, it was ‘as if their souls…[were] meeting each other nakedly, shamefully, in a setting of some shared, secret degradation’ (99). Gerald had earlier found the boy ‘exhausted with misery and terror’ in California, and brought him back to his bed, where Duncan dreams of verminous attack and ‘Gerald was somewhere in the dream, too’ (76, 84). The uncle, shrinking from the unconscious pressure of the Duncan’s body, sits out the night, rising with a ‘a creeping disgust, a sense of degradation’ as the radio relays news about the Germans entering Prague (85). In the novel’s closing pages, he will again rise at dawn, only this time ‘the mysterious landscape had revealed its secret’ in a recollection of travelling ‘in a strange country’ whose horizon had seemed uncannily familiar (122). The remembered numinousness of place is a catalyst for assembling clues – ‘”voices” in a wood, and a light where no light could be’ – and for a pursuit of Duncan, who has fled from punishment to the now deserted camp by the standing stones (123). But the ensuing struggle – Duncan biting like a stoat, Gerald beating him lifeless with a riding crop – pitches the story towards melodrama and puts its suggestiveness at risk from bathetic explication:
From far away, at the barracks over towards Glamber, came the faint nostalgic note of a bugle, sounding reveillé. Gerald turned away, seeing everything clearly at last: knowing that the long initiation was over; the rites observed, the cycle completed (128).
This deterministic cancelling of an incendiary relationship (incestuous, paedophilic) is bound to disappoint readers, who, like Peter Cameron, have an eye to the comic and domestic treatment of homosexuality by later generations of writers: he views this unsatisfactory denouement as a self-censorious obfuscation. It is true that there are uncertainties in enunciating and relating the conscious and unconscious states of Duncan and Gerald. This problem arises from Brooke’s ambition to assemble the warring components of an identity across personal and historical time, and to create a perspective from which to relate the mental and affective lives of the adolescent and the adult. The Orchid Trilogy migrates between eras apparently dissociated by a historical process (one that makes Brooke a writer out of his time, a survival from the Twenties). The perversity of the aesthete’s fulfilment in wartime and post-war Army service is motivated by delicate, almost mandarin elaborations on the desired military other which haunted his youth. In turn, the eruption of the figure of the soldier into the bucolic scenes of childhood is given a critically ironic gloss by juxtaposition with the crude banalities of barrack life and pox-doctoring.
But in The Scapegoat, the relationship between naive libidinousness and self-conscious inhibition is handled in a form that is ultimately less flexible, portentously tragic rather than ironic. The titular symbolism of atonement – Duncan the sacrificial victim, Gerald the scapegoat – suggests that the nephew is in a sense father to the uncle. The ‘faint nostalgic note of a bugle’ which coincides with the closing of the circle of initiation implies that he is arrested back into a crisis of identity akin to that into which Duncan has been drawn by his new environment. The approaching hostilities which may relieve Gerald from the onerous failures of civilian life hold out the self-obliterating appeal of Army discipline, but it is hard to say whether the secret of the landscape he has intuited represents access to the dangerous enchantments that overtook Duncan or just the means by which to bury them.
In his discursive poem ‘California’, Brooke makes explicit the connection between liminal place and disturbances in the foundations of identity:
A centre that is, in fact, no centre, but
A shifting objective, like the sexual dreams
In the ‘exile’ of adulthood ‘the attraction and repulsion/Of the mad kingdom’ flickers indifferently between the transcendent and the banal:
The tree becomes a woman, the rare orchis
A kilted soldier, and the jankerwallah
Finds in the bum-faced sergeant’s naked grin
His love’s objective, and a Venusberg
In scrubbed and blancoed guardroom…. 
Orchid-hunting is one of the ruling figures for what lies beyond in The Military Orchid. Botanizing becomes a quest for a fugitive symbol of the idea of the soldier and of the sense of inferiority that the ‘appurtenances of soldiering’ so self-destructively yet deliciously incarnate . Apparently extinct in Britain by the Great War, O. militaris – ‘its name…a cor au fond du bois‘ – was rediscovered only in May 1947.  The story of the guarding of the colony’s location by voluntary naturalist organizations like the Chiltern Military Orchid Group – coded telegrams, round-the-clock surveillance, wardens with shotguns – reads like a story of the Home Guard in the manner of Isherwood and Upward. This concealment was effective until long after Brooke had stopped writing. In The Military Orchid, the plant’s extinction is mourned alongside the passing of ‘the concept of soldiering as a chivalric and honourable calling’:
Behind the drum and fife
Past hawthorn-wood and hollow
Through earth and out of life
The soldiers follow… 
Brooke’s elipses silently modify Housman’s period-stopped quatrain: the precariousness of Brooke’s militarized landscape – a scene of ambiguous quest and self-division – is of a different order to the immemorial trials and ironies of Housman’s Shropshire: ‘Then ’twas the Roman, now ’tis I’.  Brooke called Elizabeth Bowen a ‘”landscape with figures”‘ novelist, interested in the ‘”cracking” or “heaving” of the ground upon which they so perilously exist’, but as in much of his critical writing, he seems also to be describing himself.  His soldiery compel pscyhogeographic upheavals which are not end-stopped by the ‘free land of the grave’ but drawn out in ambivalent submission to the alien ethos of embodied military discipline. 
Brooke advertises the failure of psychoanalysis to explain the love of flowers, but we do not require Freud’s account of flower symbolism in The Interpretation of Dreams (and the analysis of his dream about authoring a botanical monograph) to recognise the indigenous and abiding association that underpins Brooke’s floral emblem of military fauna. The Military Orchid, or ‘Soldiers Cullions’ as Gerard’s The Herball of 1597 names it, is a testicular icon. The anthropomorphic significance of its tubers (resembling a bulky scrotum) is in the case of this hybrid amplified by the ginger-bread-man form of a prominent, pink labellum (the ‘kilted soldier’ of ‘California’).  O. militaris symbolises not a world that has disappeared, but one of childhood’s ‘rehearsals, incomplete or abortive attempts at the real thing’, which Brooke would know in his periods in the Army in the forties. 
The Image of the Drawn Sword is a fantastic variation on the affective connections between the romanticising fantasies of the militarized landscape of childhood and the submission of selfhood in enlistment. The absence of specification in the early pages – set on the terrain beyond Glamber, but consists of a series of tropes rather than topoi – is in the nature of a clue: the novel’s plot progressively concretizes a topography which emerges initially as a correlate of psychic states. English landscape, in a line from Wordsworth via Hardy to Edward Thomas, is the sounding board of the self’s questioning, and a screen on which intellectual and moral ambitions are projected. The pathetic fallacy, whose relation to the patriotic fiction of an essential English topography is grounded by the ‘handful of English earth’ with which Thomas affirmed what he was going to France to fight for, is given new implications in Brooke’s novel. 
Reynard Langrish is in a state of incipient disintegration, the boundaries of his person are dislocated. This dispersal, akin to a failure of proprioception, is signified by a leakage of the punctual self into the numinous beyond: the ‘several parts of himself’ appear to lie ‘scattered about the perimeter of a gradually widening circle’.  This unfixedness is both a consequence and a characteristic of his environment: ‘it seemed to him that the very countryside itself was exerting upon him an invisible, indefinable pressure [….] At the same time, the features of the landscape took on a peculiar appearance of unreality, as though seen through a distorting lens, or reproduced by some inferior photographic process’ (14).
This loosening of identity is answered by a summons to resume a wartime military personality. A young Army officer, Roy Archer, turning up lost at the cottage Langrish shares with his mother, is a source of exaltation and fear, a ‘larger than life’ masculine ideal and the locus of an inscrutable authority (19). The military invasion of Langrish’s life temporarily galvanizes him out of lassitude but exacerbates his sense of suspension, for Archer’s behaviour implies that the matter of re-enlistment and retraining has been decided, their purpose already understood. Langrish is redivided across the boundary between the normal world of work and the alternately virtual and real world of a remobilised Britain. His initial dilemma is made more acute by the conjunctions that arise in his consciousness between the enigma of the political emergency to which Archer confidentially alludes and residual childhood fears and desires mapped onto Kent.
Chief among the places ‘not marked on the ordnance map’ is Clambercrown, a stretch of downland that in Brooke’s memoirs is a terra incognita on an ego-centric cognitive map of the enlarging world of his childhood. In Image, the name stirs a ‘vague childhood memory’ which referred to ‘nothing so definite’ as a human habitation but to ‘an ill-defined woodland district, never delimited’. This ‘mysterious territory’, it is restored to the adult Langrish as ‘a landmark for military manoeuvres’ in overheard ‘Army “shop”‘ (28-9). This is not so much a case of the individual coming under the sway of social space (the cartographic representation of Britain being, historically, a primarily military project) but of the military having insinuated itself into an unobjectifiable, private topography. Secret places represent the possible field for manoeuvre of military units whose preparations are publically inadmissable. But there is more to what is going on here than Brooke using the military (a culturally and officially countenanced homosocial sphere) to provide cover for a story that explores a crisis of sexual identity, or externalising psychic breakdown as a political pathology (the neurotic’s willing submission to militant authoritarianism).
Brooke’s vision of rural England modifies the relationship between the pastoral and war. Nature’s apparent duplicity in occluding the presence of agents of military violence is a hallmark of the canon of twentieth-century English war poetry, from Owen and David Jones to Henry Reed and Keith Douglas (only post-Hiroshima would war acquire the power to change the weather). Brooke’s soldiers are not aliens in a landscape otherwise indifferent to man, they are indigenous features of a culturally and psychologically represented space that is distinguishable from both objectified nature and the objectifying grid of the ordnance survey. Geoffrey Matthew’s poem ‘Modern Deceit’ (1941) exploits the ambiguities of this kind of landscape – in which khaki colonises English verdure – to question the hegemonic purchase of patriotic bellicism on servicemen. The inscrutable gap between the militarized identity displayed by the temporary soldier’s uniform and his private motives is paralleled in a scene which oscillates between war naturalised and nature militarised:
The farm where I work has ivy at the windows
And filaments of smoke climbing like convolvulus,
But there are no sties nor ploughlands there, the cattle are sham,
The nesting-boxes are a guard against gas. 
In Brooke’s writing this military transformation of place, is which topographical appearances become dangerously deceptive, is not contingent on wartime exigency, it is made an abiding feature of the landscape. The military presence becomes natural, or rather a core element of English nature in its function as a component of cultural identity.
Langrish’s troubled assimilation to the conspiratorial scheme of enlistment and training, which seems to be a outgrowth of a locale no-longer familiar, is bound up with the resurgence of earlier confrontations with the militarized limits of his birth-place. The far cry of a bugle restores an ‘older memory’ of searching fruitlessly for the ‘Dog’ inn at Clambercrown. Then he had found himself surrounded by soldiers, and had fled their ‘red, grinning faces’, pursued ‘by laughter and catcalls’ (40). The inability, for long after, to revisit that scene (Brooke himself, as we have already seen, returns to it The Goose Cathedral) is echoed in his present concealment of the ‘sense of well-being’ that ensues from participation in the ‘esoteric tribal rites’ of running and sparring conducted on the site of the Roman Camp and from the sense of ‘obligation’ to re-enlist. It is an obligation that is impossible to resist because it is unverifiable: the more Langrish tries to pin it down, the further it transforms his personal crisis in a mode of subliminal conscription. As the day appointed for re-enlistment nears, his contrary responses to the summons cast him back to a fear like starting school and an excitement ‘comparable to the vague stirrings of sexuality in an adolescent’ (65). Archer’s desertion of Langrish (the authority which he detests but is compelled to submit to will not acknowledge him) furthers the process by which the occulted militant emergency is internalised as a possibility of escape from a sense of dissolution. Langrish assumes the role of the inferior adolescent of Brooke’s autobiographical writing, drawn to the musty, muscular and brutal camaraderie of the military. His inhibitions are figured in the elusiveness of the conspirators. Like O. militaris, this mysterious force evades his attempts to locate it.
When Langrish retraces the ‘gymnasium’ in the Roman Camp above Glamber the only occupant is a vagrant. Although this old-soldier is branded with the serpent tattoo that distinguishes members of the training battalion, he dismisses Langrish’s ‘wishful’ account of military preparations as a ‘queer caper’ (69). Back on civvy street next morning minus his wallet, Langrish recalls this encounter – ‘the tramp’s rough kindness, his offer of the cocoa and a “kip”, the sudden birth of trust and a brief, transient affection’ – as a ‘precocious flower’ that had ‘withered in the bud’ (72). Brooke doesn’t permit his hero to articulate the queerness of his seduction by an unofficial military enterprise which explicitly seeks to restore the virtues of the ‘old-fashioned’ squaddie after all the wartime ‘pansy nonsense’ about the superiority of the educated ‘citizen-soldier’ (46). As in the autobiographical texts, the rough appeal of the virile trooper to the self-conscious bourgeois is narrated topographically.
Joining up in Archer’s increasingly invisible force comes to seem a lost chance of escaping a ‘monotonous, circumscribed life’ (75). However the novel sustains the inner conflict arising from idealizations of military service by tracing Langrish’s inhibitions and yearnings onto the altered terrain of the ‘uncharted region’ of Clambercrown. Never-occupied defensive positions from the late war possess ‘an odd air of expectancy, as though their disuse were merely temporary’ (74). The disquieting effort required to explain signs of more recent military occupation is symptomatic of a loss of will that accompanies the receding hope of freedom from self-consciousness in Army discipline. But when the zero-hour for enlistment has passed it is these barbed-wire barriers which provoke the ‘motion of irrevocable surrender’ which translate him from civilian into soldier. The fenced-off dug-out which Langrish explores in a return of the ‘old curiosity’ is a tunnel which debouches into a terrain ruled by military law. Penetrating the residually militarized landscape, he irrevocably enters a khaki world.
The novel, despite Brooke’s disavowals, has been called Kafkaesque (10). But Langrish’s futile attempts to object to his forced enlistment before a military hierarchy whose procedures do not admit the possibility of non-military prerogatives, draws on native responses to mobilization and militarization in the Second World War, processes whose autotelic manifestations struck many as unrelated to any stated or coherent war aim. Julian Maclaren Ross’s stories in The Stuff to Give the Troops (1944) are the most entertaining and caustic contemporary narratives about conscripted civilians ensnared in the regulations of an autonomous and sovereign military regime. In homage to ‘I had to go sick’, Maclaren-Ross’s best delineation of the dehumanizing miasma of red tape and chickenshit into which the onetime-person is jettisoned, Langrish is denied recourse to medical redress because ‘the Army no longer recognises the practice of psychotherapy’ (112).
By turning Langrish’s dilemma from getting into the Army to trying to escape its claims on him, Brooke brings the alternation of submission and repulsion to a new pitch of desperation, reconfiguring the ambivalent motives behind his own sequence of enlistments as a political nightmare. The fantasy militarization of England’s flora and fauna is literalized, and a psychological division is turned into a state of emergency in which ‘all law is martial’: ‘There’s surely not much distinction nowadays between being at war and being at peace'(110). Under this law, Langrish’s loathing of the ‘inescapable crude intimacy’ of barrack society, ‘a lewd phantasmagoria of squalor’ weakens in proportion to his submersion to regimentation and the ‘monotonous patois of the Army[…]a crude, homespun fabric of friendliness’; ‘enforced servitude’ becomes ‘a perverse and inexplicable joy’ (103-5).
But Langrish’s disorienting experience of sharing control of himself with his military other is unsatisfactorily resolved in a crudely oedipal struggle. The Image of a Drawn Sword, like The Scapegoat, suffers from the requirements of novelistic denouement. A return to his mother’s cottage is a last act of resistance against external authority. Running away from punishment, he seems to awake from the ‘confused, duplicated world’ of occupied Kent (137). But it is the past that has vanished: home has been visited by ‘years of neglect’, ghoulishly rendered in a ‘putrefied’ meal laid out for him by his mother, and the vestigial features on her decayed corpse (139-40). Langrish’s own flesh is altered also, inscribed now with the tattoo of ‘the fanged and terrible serpent coiled about the naked sword’ (137). This is the brand of an abiding homosocial community, cutting across class boundaries, for even members of the officer-caste like Archer sport it, and across time, resembling a supposedly Druidic amulet in Glamber museum, and a full-dress uniform portrait of Langrish’s father, his hand ‘clasping the sword-hilt…’ (44-5, 18). Langrish’s ‘native indecision’ is dispelled as the cycle of initiation into that collective is completed. Archer comes to the cottage a second time bearing news that ‘the other lot…are moving up’ and forming their HQ in the old inn at Clambercrown (141). Langrish, prepared to repel the soldiers he expects to arrest him, shoots his recruiter. The killing of the authority figure who revealed then blocked the portals of the khaki world, together with the exaction of a promise ‘to go through with it’, is a crashing deflation of the novel’s carefully-wrought and cleverly-sustained enigmas. Langrish’s ‘serene happiness’ in the operation of an unflinching will as past and future are fused in ‘the living moment’ verges on a parody of contemporary war fiction, such as Jack Lindsay’s Beyond Terror (1943) with its endorsement of violence and the violent death: ‘Living this fight with an awareness of the issues, one lived the after-struggle and achievement, one lived at the heart of life’.  In Lindsay’s book, the issues are ideological, political ideals which turn killing into a mode of transcendence. Brooke’s version of consummation is an equally partial and idealised resolution of profound contradictions, which, however, exist at the level of psychological attractions to authoritarianism.
Brooke’s oeuvre cannot be read solely an aetiology and taxonomy of sexual difference (though he returns to these themes in later novels about the margins of Thirties ‘homocommunist’ literary culture, The Passing of a Hero (1953) and Unconventional Weapons (1961)). By writing back onto an English rural childhood the sexy appeal of Auden’s ‘Soldiers who swarm in the pubs in their pretty clothes’ (in Folkestone’s louche and dangerous neighbour Dover), Brooke’s work is suggestive of the complex relationship between ideas of English landscape and fantasies of the military. He tantalisingly literalizes the poet’s intuition that ‘all this show / Has, somewhere inland, a vague and dirty root’. 
Superficially, Image resembles contemporary fictions concerned with the precarious fate of individualism in a society where a condition of war or the supercession of military authority have become normal, like Warner’s The Aerodrome (1941) or Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four (1948). But the political scenario which Brooke invents as a correlative of Langrish’s buried desires (and as a variation on his own surrenders to military authority) is not helpfully thought of as a prophecy of an emergent militant collectivism. In its fantastic extrapolation of something already latent in the imagined countryside, the novel refracts both the historical invasions of rural England by a military whose territorial needs were swollen by the mass-mobilization of the world wars and by mechanization, and the ironic cultural inscription of high-tech war within pastoral conventions.
‘Kent and Sussex have always been particularly liable to invasion’ wrote Sheila Kaye-Smith in 1937, viewing the suburbanization of the South-East between the wars in terms of Norman incursions and Napoleonic threats.  But E.M.Forster saw the military as the sharp end of urbanizing and industrializing modernity:
The fighting services are bound to become serious enemies of what is left of England. Wherever they see a tract of wild, unspoiled country they naturally want it for camps, artillery practice, bomb-dropping, poison-gas tests. I remember Salisbury Plain thirty years ago, when the cancer was beginning to gnaw at its eastern lobe, round Bulford, but all the rest was pure. Now the plain is infected from side to side; there is machine-gun practice behind Heytesbury, and flags lolling their tongues of blood up the lanes to Imber-in-the-Down. In Dorsetshire, Bere Heath (Hardy’s Egdon) has been attacked by the Tank Corps, which is also responsible for the ruining of the land near Lulworth Cove. 
This apparently unequal struggle could be reversed in wartime allegories of fascism (Warner’s The Aerodrome, or Ealing Studio’s 1942 Went the Day Well?) and of the People’s War (Powell and Pressburger’s A Canterbury Tale of 1944). This was not because Forster’s fears were unwarranted, but because the English village landscape had become a symbol of the civil and ostensibly libertarian militarization celebrated in C Day Lewis’s Local Defence Volunteer poem ‘The Stand-To’:
Last night a Stand-To was ordered. Thirty men of us here
Came out to guard the star-lit village – my men who wear
Unwitting the season’s beauty, the received truth of the spade –
Roadmen, farm labourers, masons, turned to another trade. 
Perhaps the most surprising symbol of post-war opposition to military jurisdiction over tracts of England (for the ruralist tradition has been in many ways defiantly masculinist) is the Greenham protest of the 1980s. But in the Army’s recent ‘conversion to conservation’ the firing range is represented as a defended natural environment, secure from popular transgression. To Patrick Wright this ‘affinity between green activism and military power’ marks a clear break with the ‘cultural and anti-statist valuation of English rural life’ which flourished in the Thirties. 
Wright’s account of the Royal Armoured Corps’ as-yet-unrescinded occupation of the Dorset village of Tyneham (just east of Forster’s ruined Lulworth Cove) during the Second World War reveals the complexity of cultural construction of natural heritage. But while military encroachments provided a rallying point for nostalgic rhetoric about a violated English countryside, we should not overlook the impress of war on the reproduction of ideas of rural tradition. Interwar ruralist groupings like the Wessex Agricultural Defence Association, the English Mistery and even the Soil Association had their ideological roots in fascism and a militant anti-modernity.  That this constellation of rural and militant values does not wither away in post-war Britain has much to do with a process by which English place is hallowed by the memory of wars which were fought elsewhere. One significant strand in this survival is the work of Henry Williamson, notably his roman fleuve, A Chronicle of Ancient Sunlight (1951-69), in which an authoritarian politics born of the community of the trenches is sublimated in nature writing and efforts to reverse a declining agricultural economy. For Philip Maddison, the ‘obliteration of the country adjoining London’ is a less ambiguous breach in the continuity of his life than the Great War. His Wessex Gartenfeste or Garden Fortress is an iconic element in Williamson’s mapping of war onto rural England: the sequestered countryside is the only environment in which the reconstructive vision that the veteran draws from his war experience can be preserved from dissolution. 
Literary English landscapes and the cultural meanings of twentieth-century wars converge in ways that require us to build on Fussell’s observation that ‘there are moments in war memoirs when vignettes of rural irony seem the result of a conflation of Hardy and Housman’.  The process is bipolar: while literate servicemen learned to refract Flanders through a mordant poetry of English landscape, later generations of readers annexed the tragedy of the Great War to the scenery vacated by the athletic territorials of A Shropshire Lad. Thomas’s ‘As the teams’ head brass’, with its rueful annotation of war’s disruption of the husbanding of English soil, is emblematic of the way the war came home as its literature’s ironic conventions were reversed. War would be inscribed on rural England not only via the iconography of memorials in churches and on village greens but also, more gradually, as a precarious landscape became a metonym for the loss of a generation. Rupert Brooke’s famous conceit of alien soil reterritorialized, ‘some corner of a foreign field/That is for ever England’, is turned on its head. ‘The corner of a corner of England is infinite’, observed Hillaire Belloc: the numinousness of landscape is amplified by its association with historical crisis.  When Alun Lewis complained, two years after Dunkirk, about ‘England’s pastoral army’, he intended a slight against sedentary and distinctly unbellicose garrison duties.  But in describing the ‘unreal trauma’ of the Army’s continuing phoney war in this way he also registered the strange affinity between the idea of the military and the countryside: Lewis’s soldiers belong there.
Brooke’s wild soldiers might be considered an uncanny literalization of a latent presence in English literary topography. The perverseness of his imagination comes to seem indigenous itself, not because it perpetually returns over the same East Kent terrain, but because its ramifications are entangled with the broader imprint of war on rural heritage. But in envisaging servicemen as native fauna, Brooke’s writing is also a source of illumination, casting into relief perceptions of the countryside which naturalize a strain of militarist ideology purportedly alien to a modern England which has, ‘traditionally’, fought its wars abroad.
- Jocelyn Brooke, Private View (1954: London: Robin Clark, 1989), 1. ↑
- Jocelyn Brooke, The Orchid Trilogy (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1981), 339-40. ↑
- Joseph Bristow, Effeminate England: Homoerotic Writing After 1885 (Buckingham: Open Uiversity Press, 1995), 156. ↑
- Brooke, ‘Author’s Note’ to A Mine of Serpents, Orchid Trilogy, 112. ↑
- Brooke, ‘Author’s Note’ to The Goose Cathedral, Orchid Trilogy, 309. ↑
- Anthony Powell, The Strangers Are All Gone (London: Heinemann, 1982), 18. ↑
- Jocelyn Brooke, The Image of a Drawn Sword (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1983), 28. ↑
- Jon Stallworthy, ed., The Poems of Wilfred Owen (London: The Hogarth Press, 1985), 76; Desmond Graham, ed., The Complete Poems of Keith Douglas (Oxford: O.U.P., 1979), 110. ↑
- Adam Piette, Imagination at War: British Fiction and Poetry 1939-1945 (London: Macmillan, 1995), 20. ↑
- Jocelyn Brooke, ‘Landscape near Tobruk’, Penguin New Writing, 21 (1944), 149. ↑
- Jocelyn Brooke, The Scapegoat (London: The Bodley Head, 1948), 31 ↑
- Communication with the author. ↑
- Brooke, Orchid Trilogy, 92. ↑
- Ibid., 91. ↑
- Jocelyn Brooke, The Dog at Clambercrown (1955: London: Sphere, 1990), 53. ↑
- Jocelyn Brooke, Ronald Firbank (London: Arthur Barker, 1951), 12. ↑
- Brooke, Orchid Trilogy, 320. ↑
- Ibid., 422. ↑
- Jocelyn Brooke, ‘Blackthorn Winter’, Penguin New Writing, 31 (1947), 183. ↑
- Ibid, 174; Peter Cameron, ‘Afterword’ to Jocelyn Brooke, The Scapegoat (New York: Turtle Point Press, n.d.), 171. ↑
- Virginia Woolf, Mrs Dalloway (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1972), 57. ↑
- Jocelyn Brooke, ‘California’, December Spring: Poems (London: The Bodley Head, 1946), 48. ↑
- Brooke, Firbank, 82. ↑
- Brooke, Scapegoat, 41, 6 and 17. ↑
- Brooke, Private View, 35. ↑
- Alun Lewis, ‘All Day it has Rained’, Raiders’ Dawn and other Poems (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1942), 16. ↑
- Richard Mabey, Flora Britannica (London: Sinclair-Stevenson, 1996), 41. ↑
- Brooke, December Spring, 46-8. ↑
- Brooke, Orchid Trilogy, 21. ↑
- Ibid., 53; A. E. Housman, Collected Poems and Selected Prose, ed. Christopher Ricks (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1989), 104. ↑
- Housman, ‘On Wenlock Edge the wood’s in trouble’, Collected Poems, 55. ↑
- Jocelyn Brooke, Elizabeth Bowen, (London: Longmans, Green & Co., for The British Council, 1952), 6 and 9. ↑
- Housman, ‘Crossing alone the nighted ferry’, Collected Poems, 169. ↑
- Mabey, Flora Britannica, 446. ↑
- Brooke, Scapegoat, 28. ↑
- Eleanor Farjeon, Edward Thomas: The Last Four Years (Stroud: Sutton, 1997), 280. ↑
- Brooke, Image, 17-18. ↑
- Geoffrey Matthews, War Poems, ed. Arnold Rattenbury (Reading: Whiteknights Press, 1989), 73. ↑
- Jack Lindsay, Beyond Terror: A Novel of the Battle of Crete (London: Andrew Dakers,1943), 311. ↑
- W. H. Auden, ‘Dover’, The English Auden: Poems, Essays and Dramatic Writings, 1927-1939, ed. Edward Mendelson (London: Faber, 1977), 222-3. ↑
- Shiela Kaye-Smith, ‘Laughter in the South-East’ in Britain and the Beast: A Survey by Twenty-Six Authors, ed. Clough Williams-Ellis (London: Dent, 1937), 32. ↑
- E. M. Forster, ‘Havoc’, ibid., 45. ↑
- C. Day Lewis, Word Over All (London, Jonathan Cape, 1943), 28. ↑
- Patrick Wright, The Village that Died for England: The Strange Story of Tyneham (London: Jonathan Cape, 1995), 364-5. ↑
- Ibid., 171 and 175. ↑
- Henry Williamson, The Phoenix Generation (1965; London: Panther, 1967), 125, 146. ↑
- Paul Fussell, The Great War and Modern Memory (Oxford, O.U.P., 1975), 164. ↑
- Wright, The Village that Died for England, epigraph. ↑
- John Pikoulis, ed., Alun Lewis: A Miscellany of his Writings (Bridgend: Poetry Wales Press, 1982), 152. ↑