By Isaac Rosenberg
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 our upturned list’ning faces.
Death could drop from the dark
As easily as song —
But song only dropped,
Like a blind man’s dreams on the sand
By dangerous tides,
Like a girl’s dark hair for she dreams no ruin lies there,
Or her kisses where a serpent hides.
From Max Egremont's Some Desperate Glory: The First World War the Poets Knew.
Today marks the 100th anniversary of the first day of the Battle of the Somme. On the 1st July 1916 the British suffered more than 57,500 casualties and by the time the battle came to a close, in November 1916, more than one million men had been wounded or killed.
Isaac Rosenberg is one of the most well-known soldier poets of the First World War. His vivid depictions of life in the trenches, along with those of his contemporaries, Siegfried Sassoon, Robert Graves, Rupert Brooke, Wilfred Owen, and Ivor Gurney to name but a few, have shaped our understanding of the western front. On 1st April 1918, Private Rosenberg was killed at dawn after a night patrol.
To commemorate the centenary of the Battle of the Somme we've collected together some of the most insightful, harrowing and thought-provoking books on one of the bloodiest conflicts of the 20th century.
>>>Read the love letters, memoirs and poetry of The Somme
Sign up to the Picador newsletter for all the latest news on our books, events and authors.