“Rendezvous with Death” one hundred years later
The American Library in Paris marked a significant anniversary yesterday with commemorations surrounding American volunteers in France early in the First World War, notably the poet Alan Seeger whose combat death was a kind of inspiration for the founding of the Library.
Seeger (1888-1916) is best known for one of his last poems, “I Have a Rendezvous with Death,” written just a few months before he died in action in Belloy-en-Santerre one hundred years ago yesterday. The poem, much anthologized, was said to be a favorite of President John F. Kennedy.
The poet’s father, Charles Seeger, was among the American expatriates who founded the American Library in Paris, which he saw as a memorial to his son. Royalties from “Rendezvous” were earmarked for the support of the young library. A historical footnote: Seeger’s older brother was the father of the folksinger Pete Seeger.
Participating in ceremonies at Belloy-en-Santerre yesterday was Chris Dickon, an author at work on a biography of Seeger. In Paris, at the monument to American volunteers on Place des Etats-Unis, Library director Charles Trueheart read Seeger’s poem in French at the memorial topped by a statue of the young volunteer. According to Dickon, it is the ONLY statue in Paris of an American participant in World War I.
Photo credit: Peregrine Olander