Sunday, September 27, 2015

Sunday Rerun (from July 2014): That Rendezvous

Alan Seeger, Harvard-educated, was killed in war.  He wrote the masterful poem "I Have a Rendezvous with Death" before joining the French Foreign Legion to fight in World War I.  I don't often share poetry here, but I would like you to read this one.

"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.

Seeger mentions pretty Spring days with apple-blossoms, little signs of new life returning in the flush sunny afternoons of April and May, and he mentions midnight in some flaming town.  We don't get to choose between the two.

My mother's recent death came between the deaths of two other people, two friends who left entirely too early...In April, a friend was taken in a house fire, and just the other day, a young woman very dear to us succumbed to meningitis.  As opposed to Mom's passing, which came after years of battling several debilitating conditions and four-score plus years of a sweet and happy life, both of the others were taken by foes that came out of nowhere, like thieves in the night, carrying away lives, loves and futures.

We don't get to choose.  It just doesn't seem to matter how many times we get a reminder that when we bid a friend or loved one goodbye, it might be the very last chance we ever get to do so. We'll still fret about stuff that won't mean doodly in two weeks or two minutes, or get steamed because someone butted up in line at the carwash, or envy the neighbor's new vacation getaway in the Gilligan Islands.  A precious child is killed in a freakish wind-and-rain storm,  while at the same time, people are spending time arguing about some stupid political matter.

We don't get to choose. We'd all like to go in our sleep, or just after a great round of golf (Bing Crosby) or just dashing through a field of a field of forget-me-nots on a spring day "when the first meadow-flowers appear."

We don't get to choose. We have no options as to the time of year or the time of your life, so you might as well go have the time of your life right today. That's the message I keep getting from beyond.

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