Thursday, March 3, 2011

Final Rendezvous

By way of noting the passing this week of Frank Buckles, the last American veteran of the First World War, I offer the following poem written by another American who did not survive that war.

I Have A Rendezvous with Death

Alan Seeger (1888-1916)

I have a rendezvous with Death
At some disputed barricade,
When Spring comes back with rustling shade
And apple-blossoms fill the air--
I have a rendezvous with Death
When Spring brings back blue days and fair.

It may be he shall take my hand
And lead me into his dark land
And close my eyes and quench my breath--
It may be I shall pass him still.
I have a rendezvous with Death
On some scarred slope of battered hill,
When Spring comes round again this year
And the first meadow-flowers appear.

God knows 'twere better to be deep
Pillowed in silk and scented down,
Where Love throbs out in blissful sleep,
Pulse nigh to pulse, and breath to breath,
Where hushed awakenings are dear. . .
But I've a rendezvous with Death
At midnight in some flaming town,
When Spring trips north again this year,
And I to my pledged word am true,
I shall not fail that rendezvous.

{Alan Seeger graduated from Harvard in 1910 and went to Paris at the start of World War I, enlisting in the French Foreign Legion. He was killed in the Battle of the Somme at Beloy-en-Santerre, on July 4, 1916. His death came before the United States entered the war and his poetry does not yet show the bitter anger that came to mark many of the later poems of those authors who outlived him. I believe the sentiment, however, was shared by many of the participants in that war including many survivors who perhaps thought of every day of life after the war had ended as a gift that would yet someday be taken away and they would finally join their comrades who had fallen during that "war to end all wars."}

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