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About this Poem 

“On Receiving the First News of the War” was published in Poems by Isaac Rosenberg (William Heinemann, 1922).

On Receiving the First News of the War

Snow is a strange white word;
No ice or frost
Has asked of bud or bird
For Winter’s cost.

Yet ice and frost and snow
From earth to sky
This Summer land doth know;
No man knows why.

In all men’s hearts it is:
Some spirit old
Hath turned with malign kiss
Our lives to mould.

Red fangs have torn His face,
God’s blood is shed:
He mourns from His lone place
His children dead.

O ancient crimson curse!
Corrode, consume;
Give back this universe
Its pristine bloom.

This poem is in the public domain.

This poem is in the public domain.

Isaac Rosenberg

Isaac Rosenberg

Born in 1890 in England, Isaac Rosenberg served in the military during World War I and became known as one of England's finest trench poets. He died in France in 1918, and his poems were posthumously collected and published in 1922.

by this poet

poem
Space beats the ruddy freedom of their limbs,
Their naked dances with man’s spirit naked
By the root side of the tree of life
(The under side of things
And shut from earth’s profoundest eyes).

I saw in prophetic gleams
These mighty daughters in their dances
Beckon each soul aghast from its crimson corpse
To mix
poem
Your “Youth” has fallen from its shelf,
And you have fallen, you yourself.
They knocked a soldier on the head,
I mourn the poet who fell dead.
And yet I think it was by chance,
By oversight you died in France.
You were so poor an outward man,
So small against your spirit’s span,
That Nature, being tired awhile,
poem
Grotesque and queerly huddled
Contortionists to twist
The sleepy soul to a sleep,
We lie all sorts of ways
And cannot sleep.
The wet wind is so cold,
And the lurching men so careless,
That, should you drop to a doze,
Winds’ fumble or men’s feet
Are on your face.