H O M E

Poems
by Alan Seeger

(1917)



    Juvenilia

  1. An Ode to Natural Beauty
  2. The Deserted Garden
  3. The Torture of Cuauhtemoc
  4. The Nympholept
  5. The Wanderer
  6. The Need to Love
  7. El Extraviado
  8. La Nue
  9. All That's Not Love . . .
  10. Paris
  11. The Sultan's Palace
  12. Fragments

    Thirty Sonnets:

  13. Sonnet I
  14. Sonnet II
  15. Sonnet III
  16. Sonnet IV
  17. Sonnet V
  18. Sonnet VI
  19. Sonnet VII
  20. Sonnet VIII
  21. Sonnet IX
  22. Sonnet X
  23. Sonnet XI
  24. Sonnet XII
  25. Sonnet XIII
  26. Sonnet XIV
  27. Sonnet XV
  28. Sonnet XVI
  29. Kyrenaikos
  30. Antinous
  31. Vivien
  32. I Loved . . .
  33. Virginibus Puerisque . . .
  34. With a Copy of Shakespeare's Sonnets on Leaving College
  35. Written in a Volume of the Comtesse de Noailles
  36. Coucy
  37. Tezcotzinco
  38. The Old Lowe House, Staten Island
  39. Oneata
  40. n the Cliffs, Newport
  41. O
  42. To England at the Outbreak of the Balkan War
  43. At the Tomb of Napoleon Before the Elections in America -- November, 1912

  44. The Rendezvous
  45. Do You Remember Once . . .
  46. The Bayadere
  47. Eudaemon
  48. Broceliande
  49. Lyonesse
  50. Tithonus
  51. An Ode to Antares

    Translations

  52. Dante. Inferno, Canto XXVI
  53. Ariosto. Orlando Furioso, Canto X, 91-99
  54. On a Theme in the Greek Anthology
  55. After an Epigram of Clement Marot

    Last Poems

  56. The Aisne (1914-15)
  57. Champagne (1914-15)
  58. The Hosts
  59. Maktoob
  60. I Have a Rendezvous with Death . . .

    Sonnets:

  61. Sonnet I
  62. Sonnet II
  63. Sonnet III
  64. Sonnet IV
  65. Sonnet V
  66. Sonnet VI
  67. Sonnet VII
  68. Sonnet VIII
  69. Sonnet IX
  70. Sonnet X
  71. Sonnet XI
  72. Sonnet XII

  73. Bellinglise
  74. Liebestod
  75. Resurgam
  76. A Message to America
  77. Introduction and Conclusion of a Long Poem
  78. Ode in Memory of the American Volunteers Fallen for France

Poets' Corner Scripting
© 2009 Bob Blair, S.L. Spanoudis and
theotherpages.org.
All rights reserved worldwide.


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Seegers Enlistment Photo for the French Foreign Legion
Poems




Alan Seeger

(1917)

Edited for the Web by Bob Blair

. Bellinglise

    I

    D
    EEP in the sloping forest that surrounds
    The head of a green valley that I know,
    Spread the fair gardens and ancestral grounds
    Of Bellinglise, the beautiful chateau.
    Through shady groves and fields of unmown grass,
    It was my joy to come at dusk and see,
    Filling a little pond's untroubled glass,
    Its antique towers and mouldering masonry.
    Oh, should I fall to-morrow, lay me here,
    That o'er my tomb, with each reviving year,
    Wood-flowers may blossom and the wood-doves croon;
    And lovers by that unrecorded place,
    Passing, may pause, and cling a little space,
    Close-bosomed, at the rising of the moon.

    II

    Here, where in happier times the huntsman's horn
    Echoing from far made sweet midsummer eves,
    Now serried cannon thunder night and morn,
    Tearing with iron the greenwood's tender leaves.
    Yet has sweet Spring no particle withdrawn
    Of her old bounty; still the song-birds hail,
    Even through our fusillade, delightful Dawn;
    Even in our wire bloom lilies of the vale.
    You who love flowers, take these; their fragile bells
    Have trembled with the shock of volleyed shells,
    And in black nights when stealthy foes advance
    They have been lit by the pale rockets' glow
    That o'er scarred fields and ancient towns laid low
    Trace in white fire the brave frontiers of France.

    Alan Seeger, May 22, 1916.

. Liebestod

    I WHO, conceived beneath another star,
    Had been a prince and played with life, instead
    Have been its slave, an outcast exiled far
    From the fair things my faith has merited.
    My ways have been the ways that wanderers tread
    And those that make romance of poverty -- -
    Soldier, I shared the soldier's board and bed,
    And Joy has been a thing more oft to me
    Whispered by summer wind and summer sea
    Than known incarnate in the hours it lies
    All warm against our hearts and laughs into our eyes.

    I know not if in risking my best days
    I shall leave utterly behind me here
    This dream that lightened me through lonesome ways
    And that no disappointment made less dear;
    Sometimes I think that, where the hilltops rear
    Their white entrenchments back of tangled wire,
    Behind the mist Death only can make clear,
    There, like Brunhilde ringed with flaming fire,
    Lies what shall ease my heart's immense desire:
    There, where beyond the horror and the pain
    Only the brave shall pass, only the strong attain.

    Truth or delusion, be it as it may,
    Yet think it true, dear friends, for, thinking so,
    That thought shall nerve our sinews on the day
    When to the last assault our bugles blow:
    Reckless of pain and peril we shall go,
    Heads high and hearts aflame and bayonets bare,
    And we shall brave eternity as though
    Eyes looked on us in which we would seem fair -- -
    One waited in whose presence we would wear,
    Even as a lover who would be well-seen,
    Our manhood faultless and our honor clean.

    Alan Seeger

. Resurgam

    EXILED afar from youth and happy love,
    If Death should ravish my fond spirit hence
    I have no doubt but, like a homing dove,
    It would return to its dear residence,
    And through a thousand stars find out the road
    Back into earthly flesh that was its loved abode.

    Alan Seeger

. A Message to America

    YOU have the grit and the guts, I know;
    You are ready to answer blow for blow
    You are virile, combative, stubborn, hard,
    But your honor ends with your own back-yard;
    Each man intent on his private goal,
    You have no feeling for the whole;
    What singly none would tolerate
    You let unpunished hit the state,
    Unmindful that each man must share
    The stain he lets his country wear,
    And (what no traveller ignores)
    That her good name is often yours.

    You are proud in the pride that feels its might;
    From your imaginary height
    Men of another race or hue
    Are men of a lesser breed to you:
    The neighbor at your southern gate
    You treat with the scorn that has bred his hate.
    To lend a spice to your disrespect
    You call him the "greaser". But reflect!
    The greaser has spat on you more than once;
    He has handed you multiple affronts;
    He has robbed you, banished you, burned and killed;
    He has gone untrounced for the blood he spilled;
    He has jeering used for his bootblack's rag
    The stars and stripes of the gringo's flag;
    And you, in the depths of your easy-chair -- -
    What did you do, what did you care?
    Did you find the season too cold and damp
    To change the counter for the camp?
    Were you frightened by fevers in Mexico?
    I can't imagine, but this I know -- -
    You are impassioned vastly more
    By the news of the daily baseball score
    Than to hear that a dozen countrymen
    Have perished somewhere in Darien,
    That greasers have taken their innocent lives
    And robbed their holdings and raped their wives.

    Not by rough tongues and ready fists
    Can you hope to jilt in the modern lists.
    The armies of a littler folk
    Shall pass you under the victor's yoke,
    Sobeit a nation that trains her sons
    To ride their horses and point their guns -- -
    Sobeit a people that comprehends
    The limit where private pleasure ends
    And where their public dues begin,
    A people made strong by discipline
    Who are willing to give -- - what you've no mind to -- -
    And understand -- - what you are blind to -- -
    The things that the individual
    Must sacrifice for the good of all.

    You have a leader who knows -- - the man
    Most fit to be called American,
    A prophet that once in generations
    Is given to point to erring nations
    Brighter ideals toward which to press
    And lead them out of the wilderness.
    Will you turn your back on him once again?
    Will you give the tiller once more to men
    Who have made your country the laughing-stock
    For the older peoples to scorn and mock,
    Who would make you servile, despised, and weak,
    A country that turns the other cheek,
    Who care not how bravely your flag may float,
    Who answer an insult with a note,
    Whose way is the easy way in all,
    And, seeing that polished arms appal
    Their marrow of milk-fed pacifist,
    Would tell you menace does not exist?
    Are these, in the world's great parliament,
    The men you would choose to represent
    Your honor, your manhood, and your pride,
    And the virtues your fathers dignified?
    Oh, bury them deeper than the sea
    In universal obloquy;
    Forget the ground where they lie, or write
    For epitaph: "Too proud to fight."

    I have been too long from my country's shores
    To reckon what state of mind is yours,
    But as for myself I know right well
    I would go through fire and shot and shell
    And face new perils and make my bed
    In new privations, if Roosevelt led;
    But I have given my heart and hand
    To serve, in serving another land,
    Ideals kept bright that with you are dim;
    Here men can thrill to their country's hymn,
    For the passion that wells in the Marseillaise
    Is the same that fires the French these days,
    And, when the flag that they love goes by,
    With swelling bosom and moistened eye
    They can look, for they know that it floats there still
    By the might of their hands and the strength of their will,
    And through perils countless and trials unknown
    Its honor each man has made his own.
    They wanted the war no more than you,
    But they saw how the certain menace grew,
    And they gave two years of their youth or three
    The more to insure their liberty
    When the wrath of rifles and pennoned spears
    Should roll like a flood on their wrecked frontiers.
    They wanted the war no more than you,
    But when the dreadful summons blew
    And the time to settle the quarrel came
    They sprang to their guns, each man was game;
    And mark if they fight not to the last
    For their hearths, their altars, and their past:
    Yea, fight till their veins have been bled dry
    For love of the country that will not die.

    O friends, in your fortunate present ease
    (Yet faced by the self-same facts as these),
    If you would see how a race can soar
    That has no love, but no fear, of war,
    How each can turn from his private role
    That all may act as a perfect whole,
    How men can live up to the place they claim
    And a nation, jealous of its good name,
    Be true to its proud inheritance,
    Oh, look over here and learn from France!

    Alan Seeger

. Introduction and Conclusion of a Long Poem

    I HAVE gone sometimes by the gates of Death
    And stood beside the cavern through whose doors
    Enter the voyagers into the unseen.
    From that dread threshold only, gazing back,
    Have eyes in swift illumination seen
    Life utterly revealed, and guessed therein
    What things were vital and what things were vain.
    Know then, like a vast ocean from my feet
    Spreading away into the morning sky,
    I saw unrolled my vanished days, and, lo,
    Oblivion like a morning mist obscured
    Toils, trials, ambitions, agitations, ease,
    And like green isles, sun-kissed, with sweet perfume
    Loading the airs blown back from that dim gulf,
    Gleamed only through the all-involving haze
    The hours when we have loved and been beloved.

    Therefore, sweet friends, as often as by Love
    You rise absorbed into the harmony
    Of planets singing round magnetic suns,
    Let not propriety nor prejudice
    Nor the precepts of jealous age deny
    What Sense so incontestably affirms;
    Cling to the blessed moment and drink deep
    Of the sweet cup it tends, as there alone
    Were that which makes life worth the pain to live.
    What is so fair as lovers in their joy
    That dies in sleep, their sleep that wakes in joy?
    Caressing arms are their light pillows. They
    That like lost stars have wandered hitherto
    Lonesome and lightless through the universe,
    Now glow transfired at Nature's flaming core;
    They are the centre; constellated heaven
    Is the embroidered panoply spread round
    Their bridal, and the music of the spheres
    Rocks them in hushed epithalamium.

                    . . . . .

    I know that there are those whose idle tongues
    Blaspheme the beauty of the world that was
    So wondrous and so worshipful to me.
    I call them those that, in the palace where
    Down perfumed halls the Sleeping Beauty lay,
    Wandered without the secret or the key.
    I know that there are those, of gentler heart,
    Broken by grief or by deception bowed,
    Who in some realm beyond the grave conceive
    The bliss they found not here; but, as for me,
    In the soft fibres of the tender flesh
    I saw potentialities of Joy
    Ten thousand lifetimes could not use. Dear Earth,
    In this dark month when deep as morning dew
    On thy maternal breast shall fall the blood
    Of those that were thy loveliest and thy best,
    If it be fate that mine shall mix with theirs,
    Hear this my natural prayer, for, purified
    By that Lethean agony and clad
    In more resplendent powers, I ask nought else
    Than reincarnate to retrace my path,
    Be born again of woman, walk once more
    Through Childhood's fragrant, flowery wonderland
    And, entered in the golden realm of Youth,
    Fare still a pilgrim toward the copious joys
    I savored here yet scarce began to sip;
    Yea, with the comrades that I loved so well
    Resume the banquet we had scarce begun
    When in the street we heard the clarion-call
    And each man sprang to arms -- - ay, even myself
    Who loved sweet Youth too truly not to share
    Its pain no less than its delight. If prayers
    Are to be prayed, lo, here is mine! Be this
    My resurrection, this my recompense!

    Alan Seeger

. Ode in Memory of the American Volunteers Fallen for France

    (To have been read before the statue of Lafayette and Washington in Paris, on Decoration Day, May 30, 1916.)

    V

    AY, IT is fitting on this holiday,
    Commemorative of our soldier dead,
    When -- - with sweet flowers of our New England May
    Hiding the lichened stones by fifty years made gray -- -
    Their graves in every town are garlanded,
    That pious tribute should be given too
    To our intrepid few
    Obscurely fallen here beyond the seas.
    Those to preserve their country's greatness died;
    But by the death of these
    Something that we can look upon with pride
    Has been achieved, nor wholly unreplied
    Can sneerers triumph in the charge they make
    That from a war where Freedom was at stake
    America withheld and, daunted, stood aside.

    II

    Be they remembered here with each reviving spring,
    Not only that in May, when life is loveliest,
    Around Neuville-Saint-Vaast and the disputed crest
    Of Vimy, they, superb, unfaltering,
    In that fine onslaught that no fire could halt,
    Parted impetuous to their first assault;
    But that they brought fresh hearts and springlike too
    To that high mission, and 'tis meet to strew
    With twigs of lilac and spring's earliest rose
    The cenotaph of those
    Who in the cause that history most endears
    Fell in the sunny morn and flower of their young years.

    III

    Yet sought they neither recompense nor praise,
    Nor to be mentioned in another breath
    Than their blue coated comrades whose great days
    It was their pride to share -- - ay, share even to the death!
    Nay, rather, France, to you they rendered thanks
    (Seeing they came for honor, not for gain),
    Who, opening to them your glorious ranks,
    Gave them that grand occasion to excel,
    That chance to live the life most free from stain
    And that rare privilege of dying well.

    IV

    O friends! I know not since that war began
    From which no people nobly stands aloof
    If in all moments we have given proof
    Of virtues that were thought American.
    I know not if in all things done and said
    All has been well and good,
    Or if each one of us can hold his head
    As proudly as he should,
    Or, from the pattern of those mighty dead
    Whose shades our country venerates to-day,
    If we've not somewhat fallen and somewhat gone astray.
    But you to whom our land's good name is dear,
    If there be any here
    Who wonder if her manhood be decreased,
    Relaxed its sinews and its blood less red
    Than that at Shiloh and Antietam shed,
    Be proud of these, have joy in this at least,
    And cry: "Now heaven be praised
    That in that hour that most imperilled her,
    Menaced her liberty who foremost raised
    Europe's bright flag of freedom, some there were
    Who, not unmindful of the antique debt,
    Came back the generous path of Lafayette;
    And when of a most formidable foe
    She checked each onset, arduous to stem -- -
    Foiled and frustrated them -- -
    On those red fields where blow with furious blow
    Was countered, whether the gigantic fray
    Rolled by the Meuse or at the Bois Sabot,
    Accents of ours were in the fierce melee;
    And on those furthest rims of hallowed ground
    Where the forlorn, the gallant charge expires,
    When the slain bugler has long ceased to sound,
    And on the tangled wires
    The last wild rally staggers, crumbles, stops,
    Withered beneath the shrapnel's iron showers: -- -
    Now heaven be thanked, we gave a few brave drops;
    Now heaven be thanked, a few brave drops were ours."

    V

    There, holding still, in frozen steadfastness,
    Their bayonets toward the beckoning frontiers,
    They lie -- - our comrades -- - lie among their peers,
    Clad in the glory of fallen warriors,
    Grim clusters under thorny trellises,
    Dry, furthest foam upon disastrous shores,
    Leaves that made last year beautiful, still strewn
    Even as they fell, unchanged, beneath the changing moon;
    And earth in her divine indifference
    Rolls on, and many paltry things and mean
    Prate to be heard and caper to be seen.
    But they are silent, calm; their eloquence
    Is that incomparable attitude;
    No human presences their witness are,
    But summer clouds and sunset crimson-hued,
    And showers and night winds and the northern star.
    Nay, even our salutations seem profane,
    Opposed to their Elysian quietude;
    Our salutations calling from afar,
    From our ignobler plane
    And undistinction of our lesser parts:
    Hail, brothers, and farewell; you are twice blest, brave hearts.
    Double your glory is who perished thus,
    For you have died for France and vindicated us.

    Alan Seeger



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