August 1914

Monday, 4 August, 2014

Born in Bristol and raised in London, Isaac Rosenberg was sent to serve on the Western Front in France in June 1916. He was with the 11th Battalion of the King’s Own Royal Lancaster Regiment when he was killed at dawn on 1 April 1918 during the German spring offensive in Fampoux, a town north-east of Arras. He was first buried in a mass grave, but in 1926 his remains were identified and reinterred at Saint-Laurent-Blangy in Pas de Calais. In The Great War and Modern Memory, Paul Fussell’s benchmark study of the literature of the First World War, the author declares Rosenberg’s Break of Day in the Trenches as “the greatest poem of the war.”

August 1914

What in our lives is burnt
In the fire of this?
The heart’s dear granary?
The much we shall miss?

Three lives hath one life —
Iron, honey, gold.
The gold, the honey gone —
Left is the hard and cold.

Iron are our lives
Molten right through our youth.
A burnt space through ripe fields,
A fair mouth’s broken tooth.

Isaac Rosenberg (1890 — 1918)

Filed in: Poetry

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