Tuesday, August 5, 2014

"I to my pledged word am true..."

The editors at The Poetry Foundation provide a selection of "The Poetry of World War I":
.... To commemorate the WWI centenary, we’ve put together a sampling of poems written in English by both soldiers and civilians, chosen from our archive of over 250 poems from WWI. ....

While many of these poems do not address a particular war event, we’ve listed them by year, along with a selection of historical markers, to contextualize the poems historically. You may notice that more poems in 1914 and 1915 extoll the old virtues of honor, duty, heroism, and glory, while many later poems after 1915 approach these lofty abstractions with far greater skepticism and moral subtlety, through realism and bitter irony. .... [more]
For instance this, by an American who served in the French Foreign Legion and died at the Somme. The poem was published the year following his death.
I Have a Rendezvous with Death (1917)
Alan Seeger
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.
The Poetry of World War I by The Editors