POEM of the Day (5)

GALLANTRY IN THE FIELD  

Alan Seeger or sheer stupidity? The jury is out, and depending on your personal viewpoint you will either love, hate, or pity the following work.

According to Wiki (see below) one JFK used to get his missus to recite it sometimes.

Myself, when young, loved it … before Reality set in.

(Actually, I still do love it … sue me.)

THE AUTHOR

(of the work we’re looking at below) whatever else his failings at least lived—however bloody briefly—as is obvious in the lines beginning: “God knows, ’twere better to be deep” … so he’s been there, done that; and as with all true poetic art his words resonate. Unless your bell is well and truly rung, the ‘poem’ simply isn’t art.

.

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

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DO POETRY AND POLITICS

mix? I say yes. Poetry is too often used as a tool to ensnare the naive. Sadly I put Seeger firmly into that class. Well educated he may have been but worldly wise he most certainly wasn’t. More the pity for him:

One of his more famous poems, I Have a Rendezvous with Death, was published posthumously. Indeed, a recurrent theme in both his poetic works and his personal writings prior to falling in battle was his desire for his life to end gloriously at an early age. This particular poem, according to the JFK Library, “was one of John F. Kennedy’s favorite poems and he often asked his wife (Jacqueline) to recite it.”[2]

To read more visit:  LINK  

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SOME OF THE MOST INSPIRING

poems ever written are taken as celebrating the glories of War. Not so. They may celebrate the nobility of the Human Spirit but there is no glory in war. The Victoria Cross, the Congressional Medal of Honor, any decoration with ‘For Gallantry’ (or similar) written on it is very much the sign of failure, not glory.

SO WHAT

does glory get us?

What did it get Seeger? His ‘glory’ came retrospectively—

.

Can storied urn or animated bust
 
  Back to its mansion call the fleeting breath?
 
Can Honour’s voice provoke the silent dust,
 
  Or Flatt’ry soothe the dull cold ear of death?
 
 
Perhaps in this neglected spot is laid
 
  Some heart once pregnant with celestial fire;
 
Hands, that the rod of empire might have sway’d,
 
  Or waked to ecstasy the living lyre …

.

—and can anyone think it a just ‘reward’? The writer of the few lines above obviously didn’t (herein I recognise a kindred soul) and said as much in this next—

.

The boast of heraldry, the pomp of pow’r,
 
  And all that beauty, all that wealth e’er gave,
 
Awaits alike th’ inevitable hour:

  The paths of glory lead but to the grave.”

.

—Gray’s Elegy

POETRY

is just another way of expressing truths. We Anglo Saxon types are very good at the ol’ ‘stiff upper lip’ and rather than get all emotional in public we hide our feelings behind flowery verbiage. We hope to communicate on subliminal levels as it were, mind-to-mind.

Sometimes seeds fall on fertile ground.

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KISMET

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5 thoughts on “POEM of the Day (5)

  1. Art does indeed have to resonate like a magnificent bell for it to be well received, no matter the form it takes.
    Wonderful poetry Argie, very moving, and very resonant.

  2. Sadly there’s no shortage of it out there—people seem to be force-fed in childhood with the resounding heroics and ‘nobility of heroic death’ rubbish; reality is left out. Statues always show the (deceased) Hero wrapped in his flag facing down the snarling herds — I have yet to see a statue of a legless man in a wheelchair, begging on a street corner.

    1. There is an Irish sculptor and artist who se work is actually more along that ilk. I forget his name but he did a set of sculptures of the refugees to Canada from the Irish potato famine at the port where they arrived, and they are emaciated and tragic looking, but it celebrates the heroism of ordinary people faced with extraordinary odds. I think there is a similar piece in Dublin too by the same artist. I agree there should be more if this kind of art. And there has been throughout the ages, but it tends to be hidden out of public sight.

      1. Twofold purposes—people need escapism (desperate for it, we lap it up) while Governments need propaganda. It’s a mutual delusion made in heaven.

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