The darkness crumbles away,It is the same old Druid Time as ever.Only a live thing leaps my hand,A queer sardonic rat,As I pull the parapet’s poppyTo stick behind my ear.Droll rat, they would shoot you if they knewYour cosmopolitan sympathies.Now you have touched this English hand,You will do the same to a GermanSoon, no doubt, if it be your pleasureTo cross the sleeping green between.It seems, odd thing, you grin as you passStrong eyes, fine limbs, haughty athletes,Less chanced than you for life,Helpless whims of murder,Sprawled in the bowels of the earth,The torn fields of France.What do you see in our eyesAt the shrieking iron and flameHurl’d through still heavens?What quaver - what heart aghast?Poppies whose roots are in man’s veinsDrop, and are ever dropping, But mine in my ear is safe - Just a little white with the dust.
from Poetry Out of My Head and Heart (2007), edited by Jean Liddiard
astonishing discovery was made in 1995 during the British Library's
removal from the British Museum. Thirty-four letters and eighteen draft
poems, including ‘Break of Day in the Trenches', ‘Dead Man's Dump' and
‘Returning, We Hear the Larks' by the major First World War poet Isaac
Rosenberg, were found in a bundle of papers stored by former museum
keeper Laurence Binyon, himself a poet and Rosenberg's mentor. The newly
discovered papers include all Rosenberg's complete letters and draft
poems to Binyon and the poet Gordon Bottomley, together with material
about Rosenberg from family, friends and mentors such as his sister
Annie, Whitechapel librarian Morley Dainow, schoolteacher Winifreda
Seaton, and patron Frank Emanuel. All are published here, most for the
Isaac Rosenberg was born in Bristol in 1890 to Jewish
immigrant parents from Lithuania. His family moved to the East End of
London in 1897, and after a rudimentary education Rosenberg at 14 was
apprenticed to an engraver. Wealthy patrons enabled him to study at the
Slade School of Art (1911-14) and for nine months in 1914-15 he lived in
South Africa. The only poems to be collected in his lifetime were
self-published in a pamphlet form - Night and Day (1912), Youth (1915) and Moses (1916). Enlisting in the Army in October 1915 he served on the Western Front until his death on night patrol on 1 April 1918.
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