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Poems by Isaac Rosenberg

INTRODUCTORY MEMOIR —

INTRODUCTORY MEMOIR — Rosenberg went to the Slade School in October, 1911, and remained till March, 1914. He won prizes at the school and praise from his teachers. Thrown among contemporaries, all occupied with the problems of art and the discussion of them, he became tinged with the temper and the prevalent ideas of his own generation of students. His He natural bent, I think, was in another direction. showed me drawings and studies from time to time, and I saw a few of his paintings when they were exhibited one summer at the Whitechapel Gallery. He was full of ideas, was a capable draughtsman, and could conceive an interesting design. Yet, to judge from what I have seen of his work, it did not seem to be for him the inevitable means of expression. He once showed me at his studio a large, ambitious composition—an oil-painting which I fancy was never completed. I cannot recall the nominal subject, but it was saturated with symbolism and required a good deal of explanation. I liked the mysteriousness of it, and the ideas which inspired the painting had suggested figures and groups and visionary glimpses of landscape which had passages of real beauty, though the whole work had grown impossibly complex with its convolutions of symbolic meaning. It reminded me 7

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