« ForrigeFortsett »
redeem the deeds” of the World War heroes? 6. Why do we observe Memorial Day? 7. In the prayer in the last stanza the poet tells us to whom the shaft is raised; which of these is greater, the “freemen” or the "Spirit"? 8. Find in the Glossary the meaning of: arched; embattled; votive.
Class Reading. Bring to class and read some newspaper item which shows that the spirit of freedom still lives.
I HAVE A RENDEZVOUS WITH DEATH
I have a rendezvous with Death
And apple-blossoms fill the air-
When Spring brings back blue days and fair.
It may be he shall take my hand
And close my eyes and quench my breath-
I have a rendezvous with Death
15 God knows 'twere better to be deep
Pillowed in silk and scented down,
Pulse nigh to pulse, and breath to breath, * From Poems, by Alan Seeger; copyright, 1916, by Charles Scribner's Sons; used by permission of the publishers.
Where hushed awakenings are dear ....
When Spring trips north again this year;
I shall not fail that rendezvous.
NOTES AND QUESTIONS
Biography. Alan Seeger (1888-1916) was an American poet who greatly admired French art and literature. In 1912 he went to Paris to study and write. He was visiting in London when the World War broke out, but returned to Paris immediately and joined the Foreign Legion to fight for France. This poem was written from the trenches during the winter, while Seeger was waiting for the renewal of active warfare in the spring. The poet took part in the battle of Champagne and was killed in action, July 4, 1916, in the attack on the village of Belloy-en-Santerre. During the war he formed a great friendship with an Egyptian, Rif Baer, who thus describes his last charge: “After the first bound forward, we lay flat on the ground. I caught sight of Seeger and made a sign to him with my hand. He answered with a smile. How pale he was! His tall silhouette stood out on the green of the cornfields. He was the tallest man in his section. His head was erect, and pride was in his eye. I saw him running forward, with bayonet fixed. Soon he disappeared, and that was the last time I saw my friend.”
Discussion. 1. Notice how the beautiful descriptions of Nature, contrasted with the grim determination to keep the rendezvous, emphasize the joy of life and of living, and make the keeping of the pledge the more heroic; find lines that bring out sharply this contrast. 2. This poem expresses a young man's generous consecration of himself to death while love of life is keen; which lines bring out this thought most beautifully? 3. What other soldier-poets have you learned to know in this book ? Do you know of any others? 4. How does this poem show that the spirit of liberty was the same in the World War as it was in the days of Paul Revere? 5. Pronounce: rendezvous.
Library Reading Other poems by the same author (in Poems).
In a wood they call the Rouge Bouquet
Dead in their youthful prime;
Nor taste the Summertime.
Clay to clay.
And fled away.
Three volleys ring;
The bugle sing: 20 "Go to sleep!
Go to sleep!
You will not need them any more. 25 Danger's past;
Now at last,
There is on earth no worthier grave
Than this place of pain and pride
Saints and angels stand
On this new-come band.
His stalwart sons;
The Gael's blood runs.
From the wood called Rouge Bouquet,
That softly say: "Farewell!
Farewell! 20 Comrades true, born anew, peace to you!
Your souls shall be where the heroes are; And your memory shine like the morning-star. Brave and dear,
Shield us here. 25 Farewell!”
NOTES AND QUESTIONS
Biography. Joyce Kilmer (1886-1918), born in New Brunswick, N. J., crowded much into the brief thirty-two years of his life. Before he was twenty-two he had been graduated from Rutgers College and Columbia University. He was literary critic for the New York Times and the Literary Digest. His life was a particularly happy one, both in his chosen field of work and in his home with his wife and four children. Joyce Kilmer was soldier as well as poet, like David of old, of whom it was said, he “smote now his harp and now the hostile horde.” When the United States
entered the World War, he was among the first to enlist and insisted upon going as a private. “Naturally I'm expecting to go, being of appropriate age and sex,” he wrote to a friend. After serving nearly a year, he died in the eager carrying out of a particularly dangerous piece of work. When the men of his own "Sixty-ninth” found him, his attitude was so like his keen, living self that they did not at first thir him dead, for he lay as if scouting, seeking out the hidden battery which he was trying to locate. He lies buried on the trampled hillside where he fell, close to the river Ourcq. “Rouge Bouquet” was written in a dugout, and the poet called it "probably the best verse I have written.”
Discussion. 1. Where did these fighting men meet death? 2. How does the refrain resemble "taps”? 3. Notice how painstakingly the poet worked out exactly the same riming-scheme in the two stanzas; what interesting fact do you note in the twenty-second line of each stanza? 4. What part of “taps” do these lines imitate? 5. Why does the poet say “There is no worthier grave”? 6. Notice that this group of selections is called “The Eternal Spirit of Freedom”; what famous struggles for liberty are mentioned? 7. Find in the Glossary the meaning of: meter; aureole; Gael. 8. Pronounce: Rouge Bouquet; stalwart.
Class Reading. Bring to class and read "Main Street”; “Roofs”; “The Snowman in the Yard"; "Trees”; “To a Blackbird and His Mate Who Died in the Spring”; “Dave Lilly”; Joyce Kilmer (in Poems, Essays, and Letters, Vol. 1). The Bookman, October, 1918, has a portrait of Joyce Kilmer; try to get a copy to show your classmates.
A Suggested Problem. In the Introduction on page 254 you read that the selections in this group “are only a few out of many such stories and poems that express this eternal spirit of freedom.” Be prepared to contribute to a program of additional selections found in outside reading.