Isaac Rosenberg (1890-1918)
1In his malodorous brain what slugs and mire,
2Lanthorned in his oblique eyes, guttering burned!
3His body lodged a rat where men nursed souls.
4The world flashed grape-green eyes of a foiled cat
5To him. On fragments of an old shrunk power,
6On shy and maimed, on women wrung awry,
7He lay, a bullying hulk, to crush them more.
8But when one, fearless, turned and clawed like bronze,
9Cringing was easy to blunt these stern paws,
10And he would weigh the heavier on those after.
11Who rests in God's mean flattery now? Your wealth
12Is but his cunning to make death more hard.
13Your iron sinews take more pain in breaking.
14And he has made the market for your beauty
15Too poor to buy, although you die to sell.
16Only that he has never heard of sleep;
17And when the cats come out the rats are sly.
18Here we are safe till he slinks in at dawn
19But he has gnawed a fibre from strange roots,
20And in the morning some pale wonder ceases.
21Things are not strange and strange things are forgetful.
22Ah! if the day were arid, somehow lost
23Out of us, but it is as hair of us,
24And only in the hush no wind stirs it.
25And in the light vague trouble lifts and breathes,
26And restlessness still shadows the lost ways.
27The fingers shut on voices that pass through,
28Where blind farewells are taken easily ....
29Ah! this miasma of a rotting God!
Online text copyright © 2003, Ian Lancashire for the Department
of English, University of Toronto.
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services,
University of Toronto Libraries.
Original text: Isaac Rosenberg, The Collected Works of Isaac Rosenberg: Poetry, Prose, Letters, and Some Drawings, ed. Gordon Bottomley and Denys Harding, with a Foreword by Siegfried Sassoon (London: Chatto and Windus, 1937): 63. PR 6035 O67 1937 Robarts Library
First publication date:
RPO poem editor: Ian Lancashire
RP edition: RPO 1996-2000.
Recent editing: 2:2002/3/14
Other poems by Isaac Rosenberg