The Book of Sonnet Sequences

By Houston Peterson | Go to book overview
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XVIII -- 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.

A FEW months later Alan Seeger was killed in a fierce charge on a flaming town, and perhaps only that poem will keep his name from perishing utterly. He was not of the stature of Brooke, or Sassoon, or Owen. He had no unique melody of his own. Yet this very lack enabled him to express perfectly youth's simple hedonism, the conventional philosophy of Bohemia and the romantic reaction to the war, before the great disgust.

He was born on Manhattan Island, spent two memorable years in Mexico City and went through Harvard, where he read omnivorously. Then, after a disillusioning period in Greenwich Village, he proceeded, in 1912, to the familiar allurements of Paris. There he wrote pleasantly of gay crowds, of the need to love, and of one

Who measures life's attainment by the hours
That joy has rescued from oblivion.

Three weeks after the outbreak of the war Seeger enlisted in the Foreign Legion, out of love for France and lust for experience, "to sound the wildest debauch in life." And the selections published from his letters and diaries prove. that he was not disappointed. For nearly two years, in spite of great hardships, he seems to have lived in the midst of a glorious adventure. A new vigor and a new fatalism came over his poetry, for he had ceased to be the carefree

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