1 year ago

Poems by Isaac Rosenberg


- POEMS BY ISAAC ROSENBERG was now a cause for anxiety. His lungs were thought to be affected, and he was advised to try a warmer climate. Having a married sister in Cape Town, he thought of South Africa, and in June, 1911, he sailed for the Cape. Here he made one or two friends, painted some pictures, taught a little, gave a few lectures, and published some poems and articles. But the visit was not a material success, and he returned disappointed and despondent. Soon after his return, in 1915, he printed a second pamphlet of verse, " Youth. 1 ' But he was restless and unhappy, and could not work. It was now that he enlisted in the Army. From this date onward he had practically no time for painting, but he continued to write till the end. " Moses ,1 was printed in 1 91 6. He was first in a Bantam regiment, then in the King's Own Royal Lancasters, and after a period of training at Bury St. Edmunds and at Farnborough went out, early in 1916, to France. No one could have been less fitted for a military life. He suffered not onlv from physical disability, bad health, and sensitiveness, but from the absent-mindedness of one whose imagination was possessed by his poetic schemes. " My mind will not relinquish its poetical yearnings, " he wrote, " and concentration 10

INTRODUCTORY MEMOIR on alien things and dull has strained my memory/ 1 But he endured the inhuman horror of modern war with a great heart ; he would not have liked to be called a hero, but his fortitude was truly heroic. On the first of April, 1918, he was killed in action. II The poems collected in this volume speak for themselves. The obscurities, the straining and tormenting of language in the effort to find right expression, the immaturities of style and taste, are apparent on the surface. The imaginative conceptions and the frequent gleam of imaginative phrasing should be equally apparent. But what does not appear on the surface is the fine intention, the ardent toil, and the continual self-criticism which underlay his work. Rosenberg's aim was, in his own words, a kind of poetry " where an interesting complexity of thought is kept in tone and right value to the dominating idea so that it is understandable and still ungraspable." The sentence occurs in one of his letters, and from this point on I wish to let Rosenberg speak for himself. His letters give a picture both of his mind and character, far more vivid than anything one 11