1 year ago

Poems by Isaac Rosenberg


POEMS BY ISAAC ROSENBERG of second-hand (in one of his age) there was in his opinions, how fresh a mind he brought to what he saw and read. There was an odd kind of charm in his manner which came from his earnest, transparent sincerity. The " sort of autobiography, 11 which I have never seen since I returned it to him, and has perhaps been destroyed, was the story of a youth, mentally ambitious, introspective, dissatisfied with his surroundings, consumed by secret desires for liberation and self-expression. The external facts of his life are briefly told. For these I am mainly indebted to his sister, Mrs. Wynick, whose devotion to her brother and his work was at all times unwearied. She gave much of a scanty leisure-time to typing copies of his poems, and many of them would have been lost but for her care in preserving them. Isaac Rosenberg was born at Bristol on the 25th of November, 1890. When he was seven he came to London with his parents. The family settled in the East End. The boy was sent to the Board School of St. George's in the East, and afterwards to the Stepney Board School. From childhood he showed a natural gift both for drawing and for writing. While at the Stepney school his promise 4

INTRODUCTORY MEMOIR appeared so remarkable that the headmaster allowed him to spend all his time in these pursuits. Out of school he would draw with chalks on the street pavement. Reading poetry was a passion with him. At the age of fourteen he was reluctantly obliged to leave school. His parents were poor; and though they took great pride in his gifts, he was one of a family of eight, and he must now earn his living. He was apprenticed, therefore, to the firm of Carl Hentschel, in Fleet Street. A trade connected with art was chosen for him as a stepping-stone to a painter's career, and as something to fall back upon in case his resources failed him. But he hated trade, and felt in bondage. In his meal-times he consoled himself by writing poems ; in the evenings he went to classes at the Art School of Birkbeck College. He worked hard and won many prizes. Mr. Frank Emanuel, the painter, who befriended and encouraged him at this time, describes him as having been made " bitter and despondent by his circumstances " ; and his letters reveal fits of the deepest dejection against which his will contended. The uncongenial work came at last to an end. The sense of liberation was at first intoxicating. Yet work had to be found, and Isaac was deter-