Isaac Rosenberg's Break of Day in the Trenches

[This tutorial was first written in Hypercard in 1992 by Dr. S. Lee and then transferred to the web in 1993. It has remained online ever since.]

This seminar is on the poet Isaac Rosenberg, and is based around his poem 'Break of Day in the Trenches'. It is recommended that the seminar Introduction to WWI Poetry is studied first as this will help put Rosenberg into perspective with his contemporaries.

The aim of this tutorial is to study the way a reader's impressions of a text are altered by discovering the context in which the poem was originally written. Not only will you have the option of looking at a hypermedia edition of the poem, but also material on Rosenberg's life, analogous material, and the poem's historical context. At the end you will be asked to read the poem again and record your new analysis.

At the bottom of each page you can follow a link to the next section or use the navigation panel on the left to go to any section of interest. When you have read enough choose Tutorial- Conclusion.

First Step: Below is a copy of Isaac Rosenberg's poem 'Break of Day in the Trenches'. To begin with you are asked to read the poem and note your initial reactions. You will then proceed to the hypermedia edition of the poem, and explore contextual information about Rosenberg and WW1.

Break of Day in the Trenches:

The darkness crumbles away
It is the same old druid Time as ever,
Only a live thing leaps my hand,
A queer sardonic rat,
As I pull the parapet's poppy (5)
To stick behind my ear.
Droll rat, they would shoot you if they knew
Your cosmopolitan sympathies,
Now you have touched this English hand
You will do the same to a German (10)
Soon, no doubt, if it be your pleasure
To cross the sleeping green between.
It seems you inwardly grin as you pass
Strong eyes, fine limbs, haughty athletes,
Less chanced than you for life, (15)
Bonds to the whims of murder,
Sprawled in the bowels of the earth,
The torn fields of France.
What do you see in our eyes
At the shrieking iron and flame (20)
Hurled through still heavens?
What quaver -what heart aghast?
Poppies whose roots are in men's veins
Drop, and are ever dropping;
But mine in my ear is safe, (25)
Just a little white with the dust.

Continue through the Tutorial for the poem's contextual information