5.24.3030 – rendezvous with Death

rendezvous with Death
I to my pledged word am true
he shall take my hand

For Memorial Day I turn to a poet of World War 1.

Alan Seeger and his poem, I Have a Rendezvous with Death.

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.

I first heard this poem recited when I was kid growing up in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

My Dad subscribed the journal, American Heritage and they had sent along a record album narrated history of World War 1.

The narration spent a few minute on Alan Seeger and read the poem.

I can still hear the narrator as he finished the line, “and apple blossoms fi l l e d the a i r.”

The website, Poetry Foundation, states, “Seeger’s poem “I Have a Rendezvous with Death” tells of an expected meeting between the narrator and Death himself. Though the narrator of the poem regrets leaving behind life’s pleasures and love, he does not fear or abhor death. Instead he is stoic, making the rendezvous a matter of honor. Hart described the curious relationship between the narrator and Death: “The union of fallen soldier and Death is, unfortunately, not based upon any profound philosophical or religious belief, but upon a vague romantic fusion of nature’s beauty, sexual love, and life in some undefined other realm.” His “Ode in Memory of the American Volunteers Fallen for France” is considered less aggrandizing and egocentric, and therefore a stronger work, but “Rendezvous” was still more famous. In 1916, Seeger died (ironically on July 4th) in the attack on Belloy-en-Santerre, where he was shot in the stomach. Following his death, the French military awarded him the Croix de Guerre and the Médaille militaire. He was buried in a mass grave.”

Always like the poem.

I understand it was one of President’s John F. Kennedy’s favorite.

Which is somewhat chilling.

It should also be mentioned that Alan was Charles Seeger’s brother.

Which made the the Uncle of folk singer, Pete Seeger.

For Memorial Day, 2020.

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