Chris Dickon

A Rendezvous With Death: Alan Seeger in Poetry, at War

From the Preface:

I had not paid much attention to it, but in the writing of each of the Foreign books a young man named Alan Seeger had entered the story almost unbidden. In Foreign Burial, he appeared walking with his friend Rif Bear in the Thiescourt woods of France, just back from his last trip to Paris. His death would come with the turn of the page, and I moved the story forward. Then, in Foreign Forces, he emerged as one of the first of many Harvard graduates to join the French Foreign Legion, and, again I did not pay him much attention in the pages that followed, except to refer to his signal poem “I Have a Rendezvous with Death.”

The story that follows has turned out to be much more than the story I imagined it would be. It will take us through two hundred and fifty years of history, and the eras of knights and warriors. We will travel from Staten Island to rural and urban Mexico, then to Tarrytown and Cambridge. We will be down and out in Greenwich Village, and brought to vitality in the streets of Paris, followed by a magnificent walk through the villages of northeastern France. We will live in the trenches and ruined chateaux of war, stand with the night sentry as he contemplates the sky - and there will be poetry.

It will not, of course, offer the definitive answer to the question of why men and women go to war. I hope, though, that it will take us into an expanded realm of the way we think about the question, and return the statue of a very important person to the monument of the shared history of the United States and France.

Selected Works

A biography of the World War I American poet killed in action with the French Foreign Legion on July 4, 1916.
A survey of American war dead still buried abroad since the Revolutionary War.
A sailing USN frigate, now a watermill in England: . . . a gem of a book. Virginian Pilot, Norfolk.
"Readers seeking untold tales of dedicated Americans serving under foreign flags during the world wars will read this book avidly, wondering perhaps why they’re learning about these adventures for the first time."
At the end of the 19th century an audacious railroad sets sail across the Chesapeake Bay.