The Poetry of Isaac Rosenberg:
“Sudden the Lightning Flashed Upon a Figure. . . .”
When Isaac Rosenberg was buried in an unmarked grave in France in 1918, he left behind only a slender sheaf of poetry that can be regarded as really important. Despite his several inconspicuous appearances in print, he must have seemed as nearly anonymous as most of the hundreds of thousands who were killed that year. And in spite of his talent, and Gordon Bottomley’s edition of his poems, brought out in 1922, the years that followed his death have done little to rectify that churlish neglect which had been their chief gift to him while alive.
There is, certainly, a confusing unevenness in the collected volume as a whole, an occasional fragmentary quality that is superficially disengaging—at least to the easily discouraged. His best efforts are contained in a handful of Trench Poems which must be set off against a considerably larger number of poems written at different stages in his creative immaturity. This period of artistic uncertainty and more or less conventional poetics was more than usually pro-tracted in Rosenberg’s case; and that for a number of reasons, most of which can be traced to the discouragements of poverty.
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