by Alan Seeger



  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


  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 . . .


  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
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Alan Seeger

Alan Seeger


Edited for the Web by Bob Blair

. The Aisne (1914-15)

    WE FIRST saw fire on the tragic slopes
    Where the flood-tide of France's early gain,
    Big with wrecked promise and abandoned hopes,
    Broke in a surf of blood along the Aisne.

    The charge her heroes left us, we assumed,
    What, dying, they reconquered, we preserved,
    In the chill trenches, harried, shelled, entombed,
    Winter came down on us, but no man swerved.

    Winter came down on us. The low clouds, torn
    In the stark branches of the riven pines,
    Blurred the white rockets that from dusk till morn
    Traced the wide curve of the close-grappling lines.

    In rain, and fog that on the withered hill
    Froze before dawn, the lurking foe drew down;
    Or light snows fell that made forlorner still
    The ravaged country and the ruined town;

    Or the long clouds would end. Intensely fair,
    The winter constellations blazing forth -- -
    Perseus, the Twins, Orion, the Great Bear -- -
    Gleamed on our bayonets pointing to the north.

    And the lone sentinel would start and soar
    On wings of strong emotion as he knew
    That kinship with the stars that only War
    Is great enough to lift man's spirit to.

    And ever down the curving front, aglow
    With the pale rockets' intermittent light,
    He heard, like distant thunder, growl and grow
    The rumble of far battles in the night, -- -

    Rumors, reverberant, indistinct, remote,
    Borne from red fields whose martial names have won
    The power to thrill like a far trumpet-note, -- -
    Vic, Vailly, Soupir, Hurtelise, Craonne . . .

    Craonne, before thy cannon-swept plateau,
    Where like sere leaves lay strewn September's dead,
    I found for all dear things I forfeited
    A recompense I would not now forego.

    For that high fellowship was ours then
    With those who, championing another's good,
    More than dull Peace or its poor votaries could,
    Taught us the dignity of being men.

    There we drained deeper the deep cup of life,
    And on sublimer summits came to learn,
    After soft things, the terrible and stern,
    After sweet Love, the majesty of Strife;

    There where we faced under those frowning heights
    The blast that maims, the hurricane that kills;
    There where the watchlights on the winter hills
    Flickered like balefire through inclement nights;

    There where, firm links in the unyielding chain,
    Where fell the long-planned blow and fell in vain -- -
    Hearts worthy of the honor and the trial,
    We helped to hold the lines along the Aisne.

    Alan Seeger

. Champagne (1914-15)

    IN THE glad revels, in the happy fetes,
    When cheeks are flushed, and glasses gilt and pearled
    With the sweet wine of France that concentrates
    The sunshine and the beauty of the world,

    Drink sometimes, you whose footsteps yet may tread
    The undisturbed, delightful paths of Earth,
    To those whose blood, in pious duty shed,
    Hallows the soil where that same wine had birth.

    Here, by devoted comrades laid away,
    Along our lines they slumber where they fell,
    Beside the crater at the Ferme d'Alger
    And up the bloody slopes of La Pompelle,

    And round the city whose cathedral towers
    The enemies of Beauty dared profane,
    And in the mat of multicolored flowers
    That clothe the sunny chalk-fields of Champagne.

    Under the little crosses where they rise
    The soldier rests. Now round him undismayed
    The cannon thunders, and at night he lies
    At peace beneath the eternal fusillade. . . .

    That other generations might possess -- -
    From shame and menace free in years to come -- -
    A richer heritage of happiness,
    He marched to that heroic martyrdom.

    Esteeming less the forfeit that he paid
    Than undishonored that his flag might float
    Over the towers of liberty, he made
    His breast the bulwark and his blood the moat.

    Obscurely sacrificed, his nameless tomb,
    Bare of the sculptor's art, the poet's lines,
    Summer shall flush with poppy-fields in bloom,
    And Autumn yellow with maturing vines.

    There the grape-pickers at their harvesting
    Shall lightly tread and load their wicker trays,
    Blessing his memory as they toil and sing
    In the slant sunshine of October days. . . .

    I love to think that if my blood should be
    So privileged to sink where his has sunk,
    I shall not pass from Earth entirely,
    But when the banquet rings, when healths are drunk,

    And faces that the joys of living fill
    Glow radiant with laughter and good cheer,
    In beaming cups some spark of me shall still
    Brim toward the lips that once I held so dear.

    So shall one coveting no higher plane
    Than nature clothes in color and flesh and tone,
    Even from the grave put upward to attain
    The dreams youth cherished and missed and might have known;

    And that strong need that strove unsatisfied
    Toward earthly beauty in all forms it wore,
    Not death itself shall utterly divide
    From the beloved shapes it thirsted for.

    Alas, how many an adept for whose arms
    Life held delicious offerings perished here,
    How many in the prime of all that charms,
    Crowned with all gifts that conquer and endear!

    Honor them not so much with tears and flowers,
    But you with whom the sweet fulfilment lies,
    Where in the anguish of atrocious hours
    Turned their last thoughts and closed their dying eyes,

    Rather when music on bright gatherings lays
    Its tender spell, and joy is uppermost,
    Be mindful of the men they were, and raise
    Your glasses to them in one silent toast.

    Drink to them -- - amorous of dear Earth as well,
    They asked no tribute lovelier than this -- -
    And in the wine that ripened where they fell,
    Oh, frame your lips as though it were a kiss.

    Alan Seeger, Champagne, France, July, 1915.

. The Hosts

    PURGED, with the life they left, of all
    That makes life paltry and mean and small,
    In their new dedication charged
    With something heightened, enriched, enlarged,
    That lends a light to their lusty brows
    And a song to the rhythm of their tramping feet,
    These are the men that have taken vows,
    These are the hardy, the flower, the elite, -- -
    These are the men that are moved no more
    By the will to traffic and grasp and store
    And ring with pleasure and wealth and love
    The circles that self is the center of;
    But they are moved by the powers that force
    The sea forever to ebb and rise,
    That hold Arcturus in his course,
    And marshal at noon in tropic skies
    The clouds that tower on some snow-capped chain
    And drift out over the peopled plain.
    They are big with the beauty of cosmic things.
    Mark how their columns surge! They seem
    To follow the goddess with outspread wings
    That points toward Glory, the soldier's dream.
    With bayonets bare and flags unfurled,
    They scale the summits of the world
    And fade on the farthest golden height
    In fair horizons full of light.

    Comrades in arms there -- - friend or foe -- -
    That trod the perilous, toilsome trail
    Through a world of ruin and blood and woe
    In the years of the great decision -- - hail!
    Friend or foe, it shall matter nought;
    This only matters, in fine: we fought.
    For we were young and in love or strife
    Sought exultation and craved excess:
    To sound the wildest debauch in life
    We staked our youth and its loveliness.
    Let idlers argue the right and wrong
    And weigh what merit our causes had.
    Putting our faith in being strong -- -
    Above the level of good and bad -- -
    For us, we battled and burned and killed
    Because evolving Nature willed,
    And it was our pride and boast to be
    The instruments of Destiny.
    There was a stately drama writ
    By the hand that peopled the earth and air
    And set the stars in the infinite
    And made night gorgeous and morning fair,
    And all that had sense to reason knew
    That bloody drama must be gone through.
    Some sat and watched how the action veered -- -
    Waited, profited, trembled, cheered -- -
    We saw not clearly nor understood,
    But yielding ourselves to the masterhand,
    Each in his part as best he could,
    We played it through as the author planned.

    Alan Seeger

. Maktoob

    A SHELL surprised our post one day
    And killed a comrade at my side.
    My heart was sick to see the way
          He suffered as he died.

    I dug about the place he fell,
    And found, no bigger than my thumb,
    A fragment of the splintered shell
          In warm aluminum.

    I melted it, and made a mould,
    And poured it in the opening,
    And worked it, when the cast was cold,
          Into a shapely ring.

    And when my ring was smooth and bright,
    Holding it on a rounded stick,
    For seal, I bade a Turco write
          Maktoob in Arabic.

    Maktoob! "'Tis written!" . . . So they think,
    These children of the desert, who
    From its immense expanses drink
          Some of its grandeur too.

    Within the book of Destiny,
    Whose leaves are time, whose cover, space,
    The day when you shall cease to be,
          The hour, the mode, the place,

    Are marked, they say; and you shall not
    By taking thought or using wit
    Alter that certain fate one jot,
          Postpone or conjure it.

    Learn to drive fear, then, from your heart.
    If you must perish, know, O man,
    'Tis an inevitable part
          Of the predestined plan.

    And, seeing that through the ebon door
    Once only you may pass, and meet
    Of those that have gone through before
          The mighty, the elite -- ---

    Guard that not bowed nor blanched with fear
    You enter, but serene, erect,
    As you would wish most to appear
          To those you most respect.

    So die as though your funeral
    Ushered you through the doors that led
    Into a stately banquet hall
          Where heroes banqueted;

    And it shall all depend therein
    Whether you come as slave or lord,
    If they acclaim you as their kin
          Or spurn you from their board.

    So, when the order comes: "Attack!"
    And the assaulting wave deploys,
    And the heart trembles to look back
          On life and all its joys;

    Or in a ditch that they seem near
    To find, and round your shallow trough
    Drop the big shells that you can hear
          Coming a half mile off;

    When, not to hear, some try to talk,
    And some to clean their guns, or sing,
    And some dig deeper in the chalk -- -
          I look upon my ring:

    And nerves relax that were most tense,
    And Death comes whistling down unheard,
    As I consider all the sense
          Held in that mystic word.

    And it brings, quieting like balm
    My heart whose flutterings have ceased,
    The resignation and the calm
          And wisdom of the East.

    Alan Seeger

. I Have a Rendezvous with Death . . .

    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

. Sonnet I

    SIDNEY, in whom the heyday of romance
    Came to its precious and most perfect flower,
    Whether you tourneyed with victorious lance
    Or brought sweet roundelays to Stella's bower,
    I give myself some credit for the way
    I have kept clean of what enslaves and lowers,
    Shunned the ideals of our present day
    And studied those that were esteemed in yours;
    For, turning from the mob that buys Success
    By sacrificing all Life's better part,
    Down the free roads of human happiness
    I frolicked, poor of purse but light of heart,
    And lived in strict devotion all along
    To my three idols -- - Love and Arms and Song.

    Alan Seeger

. Sonnet II

    NOT that I always struck the proper mean
    Of what mankind must give for what they gain,
    But, when I think of those whom dull routine
    And the pursuit of cheerless toil enchain,
    Who from their desk-chairs seeing a summer cloud
    Race through blue heaven on its joyful course
    Sigh sometimes for a life less cramped and bowed,
    I think I might have done a great deal worse;
    For I have ever gone untied and free,
    The stars and my high thoughts for company;
    Wet with the salt-spray and the mountain showers,
    I have had the sense of space and amplitude,
    And love in many places, silver-shoed,
    Has come and scattered all my path with flowers.

    Alan Seeger

. Sonnet III

    WHY should you be astonished that my heart,
    Plunged for so long in darkness and in dearth,
    Should be revived by you, and stir and start
    As by warm April now, reviving Earth?
    I am the field of undulating grass
    And you the gentle perfumed breath of Spring,
    And all my lyric being, when you pass,
    Is bowed and filled with sudden murmuring.
    I asked you nothing and expected less,
    But, with that deep, impassioned tenderness
    Of one approaching what he most adores,
    I only wished to lose a little space
    All thought of my own life, and in its place
    To live and dream and have my joy in yours.

    Alan Seeger

. Sonnet IV

    To . . . in church

    IF I was drawn here from a distant place,
    'Twas not to pray nor hear our friend's address,
    But, gazing once more on your winsome face,
    To worship there Ideal Loveliness.
    On that pure shrine that has too long ignored
    The gifts that once I brought so frequently
    I lay this votive offering, to record
    How sweet your quiet beauty seemed to me.
    Enchanting girl, my faith is not a thing
    By futile prayers and vapid psalm-singing
    To vent in crowded nave and public pew.
    My creed is simple: that the world is fair,
    And beauty the best thing to worship there,
    And I confess it by adoring you.

    Alan Seeger

. Sonnet V

    SEEING you have not come with me, nor spent
    This day's suggestive beauty as we ought,
    I have gone forth alone and been content
    To make you mistress only of my thought.
    And I have blessed the fate that was so kind
    In my life's agitations to include
    This moment's refuge where my sense can find
    Refreshment, and my soul beatitude.
    Oh, be my gentle love a little while!
    Walk with me sometimes. Let me see you smile.
    Watching some night under a wintry sky,
    Before the charge, or on the bed of pain,
    These blessed memories shall revive again
    And be a power to cheer and fortify.

    Alan Seeger

. Sonnet VI

    OH, YOU are more desirable to me
    Than all I staked in an impulsive hour,
    Making my youth the sport of chance, to be
    Blighted or torn in its most perfect flower;
    For I think less of what that chance may bring
    Than how, before returning into fire,
    To make my dearest memory of the thing
    That is but now my ultimate desire.
    And in old times I should have prayed to her
    Whose haunt the groves of windy Cyprus were,
    To prosper me and crown with good success
    My will to make of you the rose-twined bowl
    From whose inebriating brim my soul
    Shall drink its last of earthly happiness.

    Alan Seeger

. Sonnet VII

    THERE have been times when I could storm and plead,
    But you shall never hear me supplicate.
    These long months that have magnified my need
    Have made my asking less importunate,
    For now small favors seem to me so great
    That not the courteous lovers of old time
    Were more content to rule themselves and wait,
    Easing desire with discourse and sweet rhyme.
    Nay, be capricious, willful; have no fear
    To wound me with unkindness done or said,
    Lest mutual devotion make too dear
    My life that hangs by a so slender thread,
    And happy love unnerve me before May
    For that stern part that I have yet to play.

    Alan Seeger

. Sonnet VIII

    OH, LOVE of woman, you are known to be
    A passion sent to plague the hearts of men;
    For every one you bring felicity
    Bringing rebuffs and wretchedness to ten.
    I have been oft where human life sold cheap
    And seen men's brains spilled out about their ears
    And yet that never cost me any sleep;
    I lived untroubled and I shed no tears.
    Fools prate how war is an atrocious thing;
    I always knew that nothing it implied
    Equalled the agony of suffering
    Of him who loves and loves unsatisfied.
    War is a refuge to a heart like this;
    Love only tells it what true torture is.

    Alan Seeger

. Sonnet IX

    WELL, seeing I have no hope, then let us part;
    Having long taught my flesh to master fear,
    I should have learned by now to rule my heart,
    Although, Heaven knows, 'tis not so easy near.
    Oh, you were made to make men miserable
    And torture those who would have joy in you,
    But I, who could have loved you, dear, so well,
    Take pride in being a good loser too;
    And it has not been wholly unsuccess,
    For I have rescued from forgetfulness
    Some moments of this precious time that flies,
    Adding to my past wealth of memory
    The pretty way you once looked up at me,
    Your low, sweet voice, your smile, and your dear eyes.

    Alan Seeger

. Sonnet X

    I HAVE sought Happiness, but it has been
    A lovely rainbow, baffling all pursuit,
    And tasted Pleasure, but it was a fruit
    More fair of outward hue than sweet within.
    Renouncing both, a flake in the ferment
    Of battling hosts that conquer or recoil,
    There only, chastened by fatigue and toil,
    I knew what came the nearest to content.
    For there at least my troubled flesh was free
    From the gadfly Desire that plagued it so;
    Discord and Strife were what I used to know,
    Heartaches, deception, murderous jealousy;
    By War transported far from all of these,
    Amid the clash of arms I was at peace.

    Alan Seeger

. Sonnet XI

    On Returning to the Front after Leave

    APART sweet women (for whom Heaven be blessed),
    Comrades, you cannot think how thin and blue
    Look the leftovers of mankind that rest,
    Now that the cream has been skimmed off in you.
    War has its horrors, but has this of good -- -
    That its sure processes sort out and bind
    Brave hearts in one intrepid brotherhood
    And leave the shams and imbeciles behind.
    Now turn we joyful to the great attacks,
    Not only that we face in a fair field
    Our valiant foe and all his deadly tools,
    But also that we turn disdainful backs
    On that poor world we scorn yet die to shield -- -
    That world of cowards, hypocrites, and fools.

    Alan Seeger

. Sonnet XII

    CLOUDS rosy-tinted in the setting sun,
    Depths of the azure eastern sky between,
    Plains where the poplar-bordered highways run,
    Patched with a hundred tints of brown and green, -- -
    Beauty of Earth, when in thy harmonies
    The cannon's note has ceased to be a part,
    I shall return once more and bring to these
    The worship of an undivided heart.
    Of those sweet potentialities that wait
    For my heart's deep desire to fecundate
    I shall resume the search, if Fortune grants;
    And the great cities of the world shall yet
    Be golden frames for me in which to set
    New masterpieces of more rare romance.

    Alan Seeger

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