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Poems by Isaac Rosenberg


POEMS BY ISAAC ROSENBERG of his poetry ; and I think that represented his natural bent in art. Had lie been born half a century earlier, he would have been an ardent disciple of Rossetti. But he could not escape from the mental atmosphere of his own generation, in which so "literary" a conception of painting was bound to wither in discouragement. Later, he showed me some studies of landscape had made in South Africa. and portrait which he These were in a more "modern'' 1 vein of realism, but they seemed to fail in the quality of force, to which all other qualities had been, in intention, sacrificed. They had no personal savour. Like every generous and ambitious youth, Rosenberg wished his own generation to do glorious things, and wished to belong to it as a comrade. Whether he would have emerged and found himself as a painter is a doubtful conjecture. I think it possible that he would have abandoned painting. For his true vocation was poetry, and he thought of himself as a poet rather than as a painter. He had begun to write verse at a very early age. Mr. Morley Dainow, who was at the time librarian in the Whitechapel Public Library, was approached one day by a Jewish girl who wanted advice and help for her young brother. 8 His aim

INTRODUCTORY MEMOIR in life, she said, was to be a poet. The next day the boy was brought to the library. Isaac then seemed to be between ten and twelve years of age. He had already determined to be a poet and a painter. He interested and impressed Mr. Dainow, and in return for his friendly encouragement sent him a poem called " David's Harp." These are the earliest verses of Rosenberg's that Mr. Bottomley or I have seen. They are not printed in this book, but they are interesting because they show how, even as a young boy, Rosenberg cherished the traditions of his race and aspired to become a representative poet of his own nation. Moses and Judas Maccabaeus were intended to be themes of his maturer poetry. " David's Harp " is in fluent stanzas, and shows the passing influence of Byron. The pamphlet called " Night and Day," printed in 1912, contains probably all that Rosenberg cared to preserve of his early verse, though no doubt it represented but a small selection from what he had written. After leaving the Slade School, he found himself faced with a harder struggle than ever. But he never admitted defeat. He sold a few pictures and got a few poems into print, but his health 9