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Poems by Isaac Rosenberg

I POEMS BY ISAAC

I POEMS BY ISAAC ROSENBERG could write about him. He very rarely dated a letter, but the address and internal evidence give a clue to the date. The first extract is from a letter written, while he was still an apprentice, to Miss Winifreda Seaton, a friend to whom Mr. Amschewitz introduced him. Miss Seaton lent him books, encouraged him to write, discussed art and literature with him, and criticized his poems. "It is horrible to think that all these hours, when my days are full of vigour and my hands and soul craving for self-expression, I am bound, chained to this fiendish mangling-machine, without hope and almost desire of deliverance, and the days of youth go by. . . . I have tried to make some sort of self-adjustment to circumstances by saying, 'It is all experience''; but, good God! it is all experience, and nothing else. ... I really would like to take up painting seriously ; I think I might do something at that ; but poetry— despair of ever writing excellent poetry. I can't look at things in the simple, large way that great poets do. My mind is so cramped and dulled and fevered, there is no consistency of purpose, no oneness of aim ; the very fibres are torn apart, and V2

: INTRODUCTORY MEMOIR application deadened by the fiendish persistence of the coil of circumstance." At last the apprenticeship is over and Rosenberg writes* exulting : " Congratulate me ! I've cleared out of the shop, I hope for good and all. Fm free—free to do anything, hang myself or anything except work. . . . I'm very optimistic, now that I don't know what to do, and everything seems topsy-turvy." A little later comes the reaction : " I am out of work. I doubt if I feel the better for it, much as the work was distasteful, though I expect it's the hankering thought of the consequences, pecuniary, etc., that bothers me. . . . All one's thoughts seem to revolve round to one point—death. It is horrible, especially at night, ' in the silence of the midnight '; it seems to clutch at your thought — you can't breathe. Oh, I think, work, work, any work, only to stop one thinking. 1 '' he is But such moods are resisted. writing At another time " One conceives one's lot (I suppose it's the * Thi9 and the following extracts are from letters to the same correspondent. 13