Page 53 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 1

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MORRIS ROSENFELD
AN APPRECIATION OF HIS LIFE AND WORK
on the
8 0
th anniversary of his birth, and the
2 0
th of his death
By
Elbert A. Trommer
Morris Rosenfeld was born in the small Polish town of Boksha,
near Suwalki, in December,
1 8 6 2
• At the age of twenty he came
to Amsterdam; next he moved to London, where he found em-
ployment in the sweatshops and, in the early nineties, he settled
in New York.
He began composing his songs of Labor in
1 8 8 5
. In
1 8 9 7
,
when Rosenfeld’s collected poems were published in
Das Lieder
Buch
(The Book of Songs), his work attracted the attention of
Leo Wiener, Professor of Slavonic Literature at Harvard. Wiener
published a prose version of the poems in English, accompanied
by a transliteration in German characters, under the title o^
Songs from the Ghet to.
This established Rosenfeld’s reputation
practically overnight, his poems were translated into a number
of languages, in this country as well as in Europe, and the singer
was universally proclaimed the Bard and Poet Laureate of Labor.
He was very prolific—his collected works alone, poetry and
prose, number over a dozen volumes. His literary heritage, most
of it published in the Yiddish periodical press, contains enough
material for at least as many more books, at least two of which
would be filled with his original poems in English.
In
1 9 0 8
, the death of his only son nearly brought about his
own end, and physicians ordered him to the spas of Europe.
The journey became a veritable triumphal procession for the
poet. He was received by enthusiastic admirers wherever he went,
and recited his verses before the most select society in European
capitals.
In
1 9 1 4
he severed his connections with the
Jewish Dai ly
Forward,
the Yiddish Labor newspaper, and became a contribu-
tor to the conservative
Jewish Dai ly News (Yiddishes Tageblat t)
which affiliation continued to the last day of his life.
His fiftieth, as well as sixtieth anniversary was widely cele-
brated in Jewish and non-Jewish literary circles.
He died in June,
1 9 2 3
.