From a mosquito bite to his lip.
Rupert Brooke was an immensely talented young poet, best known today for the hyper-nationalistic World War I sonnet, "The Soldier." He lived for just twenty-eight years and his death was a tragedy for letters.
It's easy to be skeptical about the mosquito. I've been in the company of these insects many times, and I've never been bitten on the lip. Mosquitoes seem to avoid the mouth area -- at least, they avoid my mouth. But then, I don't know anything about the habits of eastern Mediterranean mosquitoes.
Brooke was a sub-lieutenant with Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve; the mosquito attack took place while his ship was anchored in the Aegean. He developed an abscess and sepsis and as a result was transferred to a French hospital ship, the Duguay-Trouin. He died at 4:46 pm on 24 April, 1915 and was buried in an olive grove on the island of Skyros.
An unlikely death-- as odd and irregular as that of Aeschylus (struck on the head by a tortoise dropped by an eagle), or Isadora Duncan (strangled by a scarf entangled in the wheels of a motor-car). Or the unfortunate composer Jean-Baptiste Lully, who, while conducting in the traditional manner by beating time with staff, accidentally knocked his own foot, causing an abscess which became gangrenous and fatal. Alas, no antibiotics in 1687.
My guess is that if Brooke had not been bitten and had survived Gallipoli (where his ship was headed), the "pure and elevated patriotism" displayed in "The Soldier" might have become less enthusiastic. Brooke might have evolved in a direction similar to that of his jaded-about-warfare contemporaries Siegfried Sassoon, Wilfrid Owen, Isaac Rosenberg, Ivor Gurney, and Edward Thomas. But we'll never know.