‘Break of Day in the Trenches’, here just titled ‘In the Trenches’, is one of Isaac Rosenberg’s best known poems. Rosenberg wrote his poetry whilst in the army on whatever scraps of paper he could find and then sent them to friends and family in England for safekeeping. This poem was sent to Gordon Bottomley, a prominent literary figure and enthusiastic supporter of Rosenberg; the poet’s immense gratitude towards him is evident throughout his letters.
This poem uses nature to subvert the traditional pastoral themes of the Georgian poets and touches on the idea of the arbitrariness of nationality.
Rosenberg was Jewish and came from a working class background which differentiates him from many other well known First World War poets. He joined up in 1916 to earn money for his family and did not have any illusions about the glory of fighting. In the Army he faced anti-Semitism from his fellow soldiers and was further ostracized for his intellectual and creative pursuits. Rosenberg was killed on the 1st of April 1918 near Arras, France.