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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
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
Sombre the night is:
And, though we have our lives, we know
What sinister threat lurks there.

Dragging these anguished limbs, we only know
This poison-blasted track opens on our camp—
On a little safe sleep.

But hark! Joy—joy—strange joy. 
Lo! Heights of night ringing with unseen larks:
Music showering on our
poem
Flame out, you glorious skies,
Welcome our brave;
Kiss their exultant eyes;
Give what they gave.

Flash, mailed seraphim,
Your burning spears;
New days to outflame their dim
Heroic years.

Thrills their baptismal tread
The bright proud air;
The embattled plumes outspread
Burn upwards there.

Flame out, flame out