Alan Seeger





As England and the world lost Rupert Brooke, so America and the world

lost Alan Seeger. English poetry and lovers of beauty expressed in

verse are losers to a greater extent than we can ever know.



It is not strange that these two young poets should have enlisted at

the very beginning of the war, for they recognized what high-minded men

mean by noblesse oblige. Much having been given you, much is expected

from you. Those of the highest education should show the way to those

less favored. So Rupert Brooke enlisted in the English navy, and Alan

Seeger enlisted in the French army as one of the Foreign Legion.



He felt he owed a debt to France that could only be paid by helping her

in her struggle for life and liberty. He gave his life, at the age of

twenty-eight, to pay the debt.



Alan Seeger lived a life like that of many other American boys. At

Staten Island where he passed his first years, he could see every day

the Statue of Liberty, Brooklyn Bridge, the skyscrapers of New York,

the ferry boats to the Jersey shore, the great ocean liners inward

bound and outward bound,--all the great and significant things that say

"America" to one landing for the first time at the greatest seaport of

the world. Later he lived in New York and attended the Horace Mann

School. His vacations were spent among the hills and mountains of New

Hampshire and in southern California. He fitted for college at a famous

preparatory school at Tarrytown on the Hudson, attended Harvard

College, and after graduation lived for two years in New York City. All

this is American, and thousands of other American boys have passed

through the same or a similar experience.



Alan Seeger was romantic. So are most boys. But with most boys, romance

goes no further than books and dreams. "Robinson Crusoe," "Huckleberry

Finn," "Treasure Island," and other tales of adventure and of foreign

lands are all the romance that many know. But, like Rupert Brooke, Alan

Seeger had the opportunity to live romance, as he always declared he

would do. He found it in his life as a boy in Mexico, as a young man in

Paris, and in the Foreign Legion of the French army. The Foreign Legion

was made up of foreigners in France who volunteered to fight with the

French army. Its story is a stirring one of brave deeds and tremendous

losses. To have belonged to it is a great glory.



Alan Seeger enjoyed life and found the world exceedingly beautiful. He

says,



From a boy

I gloated on existence. Earth to me

Seemed all sufficient, and my sojourn there

One trembling opportunity for joy.



Like Rupert Brooke, he thought often of Death, which he feared not at

all. In his beautiful poem entitled, "I Have a Rendezvous with Death,"

he looked forward to his own death in the spring of 1916. He lost his

life on July 4 of that year while storming the village of

Belloy-en-Santerre. The first two stanzas are as follows:



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.



Alan Seeger has written two poems that all Americans should know. One

is entitled "Ode in Memory of the American Volunteers Fallen for

France." It was to have been read before the statue of Lafayette and

Washington in Paris, on Memorial Day, 1916; but permission to go to

Paris to read it did not reach Seeger in time, to the disappointment of

him and many others. It is perhaps the best long poem Seeger has

written, although "Champagne, 1914-15" is by many ranked ahead of it.



* * * * *



"A man is judged and ranked by that which he considers to be of the

greatest value. Some men believe it is knowledge, and spend their lives

in study and research; some think it is beauty, and vainly seek to

capture it and hold it in song, poem, statue, or painting; some say it

is goodness, and devote their lives to service, self-denial, and

sacrifice; some declare it is life itself, and therefore never kill any

creature and always carefully protect their own lives from disease and

danger; and some are sure it is being true to the best knowledge, the

greatest beauty, the highest good that one can know and feel and

realize; for this alone is life, and times come when the only way to

save one's life is to lose it."



FOOTNOTES:



[9] BASED ON POEMS OF ALAN SEEGER, COPYRIGHT HELD BY CHARLES SCRIBNER'S

SONS.





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