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Poems by Isaac Rosenberg

INTRODUCTORY MEMOIR I Of

INTRODUCTORY MEMOIR I Of the many young poets who gave their lives in the war, Isaac Rosenberg was not the least gifted. Adverse circumstances, imperfect education, want of opportunity, impeded and obscured his genius ; but whatever criticism be made of his poetry, its faults are plainly those of excess rather than deficiency. His writing was often difficult and obscure, because he instinctively thought in images and did not sufficiently appreciate the limitations of language. Also, a continual fear of being empty or thin led him to an over- intricate complexity. But there was no incoherence in his mind. And the main object of these notes, beyond recording the facts of his life, is to illustrate the growth and workings of his mind from his own letters, which will be the best commentary on his poems. I cannot precisely fix the date, but it must have been some time in 1912, when one morning there came to me a letter in an untidy hand from an 1 A

: POEMS BY ISAAC ROSENBERG address in Whitechapel, enclosing some pages ot verse on which criticism was asked, and signed " Isaac Rosenberg." It was impossible not to be struck by something unusual in the quality of the poems. Thoughts and emotions of no common nature struggled for expression, and at times there gushed forth a pure song which haunted the memory. I answered at once, and the next day received another letter which told me something about my unknown correspondent. In this letter, which, like nearly all his letters, is undated, he wrote " I must thank you very much for your encouraging reply to my poetical efforts. ... As you are kind enough to ask about myself, I am sending a sort of autobiography I wrote about a year ago. . . . You will see from that that my circumstances have not been very favourable for artistic production ; but generally I am optimistic, I suppose because I am young and do not properly realize the difficulties. I am now attending the Slade, being sent there by some wealthy Jews who are kindly interested in me, and, of course, I spend most of my time drawing. I find writing interferes with drawing a good deal, and is far more exhausting." 9