1 year ago

Poems by Isaac Rosenberg


INTRODUCTORY MEMOIR proves, perhaps, that it is good. It decides the tone of the work, though it makes it hard to give the human side and make it more living. However, it is impossible now to work and difficult even to think of poetry, one is so cramped intellectually." To Gordon Bottomley (February, 1917). "Your letters always give me a strange and large pleasure ; and I shall never think I have written poetry in vain, since it has brought your friendliness in my way. Now, feeling as I am, cast away and used up, you don't know what a letter like yours is to me. Ever since November, when we first started on our long marches, I have felt weak ; but it seems to be some inscrutable mysterious quality of weakness that defies all doctors. I have been examined most thoroughly several times by our doctor, and there seems to be nothing at all wrong with my lungs. I believe I have strained my abdomen in some way, and I shall know of it later on. We have had desperate weather, but the poor fellows in the trenches where there are no dug-outs are the chaps to pity. I am sending a very slight sketch of a louse-hunt. It may be a bit vague, as I could not work it out here, but if you can keep it till I get back I can 39

POEMS BY ISAAC ROSENBERG work on it then. I do believe I could make a fine thing of Judas. Judas as a character is more magnanimous than Moses, and I believe I could make it very intense and write a lot from material out here. Thanks very much for your joining in with me to rout the pest out, but I have tried all kinds of stuff; if you can think of any preparation you believe effective Fd be most grateful for it." The " louse hunt" refers to a night scene in which Rosenberg took part, and which forcibly struck his imagination as a subject for a Goya picture or for a poem like the "Jolly Beggars": a barn full of naked soldiers—Scottish and others—singing, swearing, and laughing, in mad antics as they pursued the chase. To Gordon BottomUy {Postmark, April 8, 1917). " All through this winter I have felt most crotchety, all kinds of small things interfering with my fitness. My hands would get chilblains or bad boots would make my feet sore ; and this aggravating a general run-down-ness, I have not felt too happy. I have gone less warmly clad during the winter than through the summer, because of the increased liveliness on my clothes. I've been stung to what we call dumping ' ' a great 40