1 year ago

Poems by Isaac Rosenberg


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

- 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