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Rosenberg, Isaac

Category: Poet

self portrait

Isaac Rosenberg 1890 - 1918  grew up in poverty in Bristol and the East End of London.

His father, a Lithuanian Jew, was a pedlar. At fourteen Rosenberg was reluctantly apprenticed to an engraver.

His ambition was to be an artist and he studied at the Slade School of Art, with support from friends, including Edward Marsh. He went to South Africa in 1914 to seek a better climate for suspected tuberculosis.

When he returned in 1915 he could find no work. Although not keen to enlist ('the idea of killing upsets me a bit'), he saw the Army as a source of income for himself and his mother. He had 'no patriotic convictions'. Because of his short stature he was assigned to a Bantam battalion, serving as a private.


He was at the front for twenty-one months, with just ten days leave in that time. He experienced discrimination as a Jew in the ranks, and struggled to find time and paper for his writing. He was sometimes unable to send poems home because the censor 'won't be bothered with going through such rubbish'.

In January 1918 he wrote to Marsh: 'What is happening to me now is more tragic than the "passion play" . Christ never endured what I endure. It is breaking me completely.'

He was killed, probably in close combat, on 1st April.

He lay unburied for many days until interred in a mass grave.




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