Alan Seeger

Updated September 23, 2019 | Infoplease Staff

Seeger, Alan



Born in New York City, June 22, 1888. He spent his childhood upon Staten Island, where he was constantly in sight of the great steamships of all nations moving in and out of New York Harbor — the gateway to the Western Hemisphere. Returning to Manhattan, he was sent to the Horace Mann School, but while still a lad, the family removed to Mexico where the most impressionable years of his boyhood were spent. The influence of the romantic Southern life is shown in his earliest poetry. Upon his return to America, several years later, he was prepared for college at the Hackley School at Tarrytown, N.Y., and entered Harvard in 1906, where he remained to graduate in 1910. Then followed a period of indecision as to his future work, a period of two years spent in New York, seeking some adequate outlet for the gifts which he seemed unable to bring to a practical issue. Finally, his family decided to give him a period in Paris, and he had been living there, with excursions to other parts of the Old World, for nearly two years when the Great War broke out and furnished him with the incentive to high adventure which his spirit craved. He enlisted at once and was enrolled in the Foreign Legion which was soon sent to the front. For two years he played not only a gallant part as a soldier, but, as his letters and journal show, he developed personal qualities of the noblest. Indeed no dedication made by youth to the ideal of the war was more complete than his. During his period with the Legion he wrote the poems by which he will be remembered, "Champagne, 1914", "Ode to the American Volunteers Fallen for France", and his exquisite "Rendezvous", published in this collection. All are beautiful and all have the exaltation which marked the soldier's spirit in the earlier years of the war. Not only did his poems foreshadow his own death, but they showed the willingness, almost eagerness, with which he offered himself. Although America was not yet in the war, a tardiness which had been a great grief to Alan Seeger, there is a poetic coincidence in the fact that he met his death on July 4, 1916, while the Legion was carrying out an attack on the little village of Belloy-en-Santerre. After his death two volumes, containing his poems, letters, and diary, were issued, 1917, with an Introduction by William Archer.

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