Isaac Rosenberg

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Self-portrait of Isaac Rosenberg, 1915
Self-portrait of Isaac Rosenberg, 1915

Isaac Rosenberg (November 25, 1890 - April 1, 1918) was an English poet of the First World War who was considered to be one of the greatest of all British war poets. His "Poems from the Trenches" are recognised as some of the most outstanding written during the First World War.

Some sources spell his name Rosenburg.


  • 1 Biography
  • 2 Works
  • 3 References
  • 4 External Links


Isaac Rosenberg was born in Bristol and moved to 47 Cable Street in 1897, a poor district of the East End of London, and one with a strong Jewish community. He attended St. Paul's School around the corner in Wellclose Square, until his family (of Russian descent) moved to Stepney in 1900, so he could experience Jewish schooling. He left school when was fourteen, where he became an apprentice engraver.

Suffering from chronic bronchitis, which he was afraid would only worsen, Rosenberg, to try and cure himself, emigrated to the warmer climate of South Africa, where his sister Mina lived.

He was interested in both poetry and visual art, and managed to find the finances to attend the Slade School. At his time at Slade School, Rosenberg notably studied alongside David Bomberg, Mark Gertler, Stanley Spencer, Paul Nash, Edward Wadsworth and Dora Carrington. He was taken up by Laurence Binyon and Edward Marsh, and began to write poetry seriously, but he suffered from ill-health.

He wrote the poem On Receiving News of the War in Cape Town, South Africa. While others wrote about war as patriotic sacrifice, Rosenberg was critical of the war from its onset. Still, in order to find a "job," and be able to help support his mother, Rosenberg, having returned to England, enlisted in October, 1915, and was assigned to the 12th Suffolk Folk Regiment, a 'bantam' battalion (men under 5'3"). After turning down an offer to become a lance corporal, Private Rosenberg was later transferred to the 11th Battalion, The King's Own Royal Lancaster Regiment (KORL). He was sent to the Somme, on the Western Front in France where, having just finished night patrol, he was killed, at dawn, on April 1, 1918; there is a dispute as to whether his death occurred at the hands of a sniper, or in close combat. In either case, Fampoux is the name of the town where he died. He was first buried in a mass grave, but in 1926, his remains, having been identified, were reinterred, not in England, but at Bailleul Road East Cemetery, Plot V, St. Laurent-Blangy, Pas de Calais, France.

Rosenberg's works are often drawn upon by historians as, unlike more famous war-poets, he was not only Jewish but a private.

In The Great War and Modern Memory, Paul Fussell's landmark study of the literature of the First World War, Fussell identifies Rosenberg's Break of Day in the Trenches as "the greatest poem of the war."


His self-portraits hang in the National Portrait Gallery NPG 4129 and Tate Britain Self-Portrait 1911

A commemorative blue plaque to him hangs in The Whitechapel Library.

  • Geoff Akers, 2006

Beating for Light: The Story of Isaac Rosenberg

  • 6th form perspective on Rosenberg
  • J M Woolf 1975

Isaac Rosenburg, poet and painter

  • National Book League Date of Publication 1975

Word and Image VI. Isaac Rosenberg 1890-1918

  • Jean Liddiard 1975

Isaac Rosenburg; the Half Used Life

  • J. Cohen 1975

Journey to the Trenches: The Life of Isaac Rosenberg 1890-1918

  • Deborah Maccoby 1999 Symposium Press; ISBN 1-900814-15-3

God Made Blind: The Life and Work of Isaac Rosenberg

  • Edited by Adrian Barlow 1995 Cambridge University Press; ISBN 0-521-48569-X

Six Poets of the Great War: Wilfred Owen, Siegfried Sassoon, Isaac Rosenberg, Richard Aldington, Edmund Blunden, Edward Thomas, Rupert Brooke and Many Others.

  • Naxos AudioBooks; ISBN 962-634-109-2

Poets of the Great War: Wilfred Owen, Siegfried Sassoon, Isaac Rosenberg, Richard Aldington, Edmund Blunden, Edward Thomas, Rupert Brooke, and Many Others.

  • Harold Finch, Stepney Books ISBN 0-902385-25-9

The Tower Hamlets Connection - a Biographical Guide

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