Issac Rossenberg’s (1890-1918) early death in the battlefield, one of the greatest war poets in the world, has always been described an immense loss to English poetry. He was enlisted in the British army as he had to support his mother. He was unfortunately killed in a close combat in 1918 during the First world War. In the British army, he had little in common with his fellow poets. They were officers; he was a private soldier quite interested in writing poetry. His officers cherished a trust in a privileged and happy England and hoped to survive the war andreturn to its old ways, but he shared none of their romantic dreams.
For him, the war was indeed a cosmic event, which he believed to be necessary to purge the injustices of society and to bring back sanity to men. As such, he welcomed the beginning of First World War, and continued to believe in it when others had lost their faith in it.
Rossenberg was convinced that the war was an inevitable part of a historical process, in which England, driven by a desire for self-destruction, by an ‘incestuous worm’, eating into its vitals, was slouching to the dooms of Babylon and Rome.
He didn’t deceive
The wheels lurched over sprawled dead
But pained them not, though their bones crunched,
Their shut mouths made no moan.
They lie there huddled, friend and foeman,
Man born of man, and born of woman,
And shells go crying over them
From night till night and now.
The above lines aptly reveal the poet as being racked by the agony and the waste he saw around, but he steeled himself to endure it. He strongly believed through an ordeal of this sort the injustices and false values of the world could be discredited and destroyed. Sir Maurice Bowra has aptly remarked: “He spoke very much from his own point of view, but what he said is an enlightened corrective to those who saw nothing in the carnage, and to those who saw nothing beyond it.”