Decoration Day. Memorial of ‘that blessed pilgrim of a vow fulfilled..’

Alan Seeger

Alan Seeger

Alan Seeger Poetry with Piano Accompaniment and read by Quinten Rhea

Alan Seeger is one of my favorite Poets. Alan is a Genius Poet, a Soldier, a Hero and a beautiful genuine soul. Last year I produced a Radio special dedicated to the memory of Alan Seeger.  I only had an hour, but I wanted to convey some part of his compelling story, and a sense of the man and his Poetic genius.  I also felt it would be appropriate to read the piece he wrote but never got to read to the public on Decorations day.

I had difficulty squaring the tragedy of the circumstances that surrounded this man with the brilliance of his genius and talents.  My only consolation comes from his personal letters home to his Mother.  In them you really get a clear indication that this is a man who believed whole-heartedly in what he was doing and the sacrifices he was making for the things that he loved.  We must give him that.  In the words of William Archer : ‘…of all of the Poets who have died young, none has died so happily….Alan Seeger we can very truly envy…he met the death he had voluntarily challenged in the cause of the land he loved, and in the moment of Victory….He believed that to live greatly, is better than to write greatly’  (William Archer intro to Poems by Alan Seeger (Charles Schribner’s sons MCMXVI)

If you love True Poetry, you love the Poetry of Alan Seeger.  It saddens me that he never got the recognition he deserved during his short life.  Alan trusted his M.S. with a printer while he was fighting in defense of Freedom, he figured it was a safe place for it.  Here is a Genius Poet fighting the worst kind of trench warfare.  Aside from a short piece in a French paper, his efforts were unnoticed in the public eye.
Alan was commissioned to write a piece dedicated to American volunteer soldiers fighting for France.  He wrote ‘Ode in the Memory of the American Volunteers fallen for France’ not knowing just how poignant and personal it would become.  Alan was to be discharged from service and read his commissioned piece at the statue of Washington and Lafayette in Paris on Decoration Day May 30th 1916.  Tragically his discharge papers were lost or delayed and Alan was still in the depths of fierce battle with the Germans.

Testimony of  Capita : { July 4th}

59-piece-de-164-belloy-en-santerre‘The troops rushed in the morning. Before the Legion, colonial infantry ahead of its target, a small village named Assevillers. At 9 h 30, the colonial reached their goal. Which is a feat, considering the strong German resistance. The Legion was ordered to meet the Porpoises. In the late afternoon, men soar. From the beginning of the attack, to 17 hours, the first waves are killed by German machine guns. All officers have fallen and this is usually a corporal took over the remains of a company. However, the regiment managed to pass. The elements of the second wave reached the village, seeping through the alleys and gardens. In the glare of bugles sounding the charge meets the crackle of machine guns and grenades. The Regiment of the Foreign Legion march reached its goal. It takes a strong foothold in the village and do not loose their positions despite the violent attacks against German. 7th Rifle Regiment comes up the regiment on the conquered positions. The R.M.L.E. back 750 prisoners, including 15 officers, but once she pays the highest price for his achievement: a third of its workforce, or 25 officers and 844 NCOs and legionnaires are knocked out.

The fight is fierce in the rue de Belloy-en-Santerre. Despite heavy losses, the Legion are showing exemplary. (Excerpt from "Collier's New Photographic History of the World's War" - New York, 1918).

The fight is fierce in the rue de Belloy-en-Santerre. Despite heavy losses, the Legion are showing exemplary.
(Excerpt from “Collier’s New Photographic History of the World’s War” – New York, 1918).

Nevertheless, the French continued success.    Legion withdrew: two heads of battalions, commanders Ruelland and Mouchet, were both mortally wounded during engagements.’



It was between 6:00 and 7:00 in the evening.
The 9th and the 11th company had formed the right column of the 3rd Battalion attacked the southern part of Belloy-en-Santerre. At 300 meters from the village, taking a terrible enfilade fire from machine guns hidden in the way l’Estrée-Bellot, the 11th Company had suffered cruelly.
In an area of ​​relatively narrow field, all officers and NCOs had fallen. The vast uncultivated prairie grass was covered with injuries. With a splendid enthusiasm and dedication, elements intact, led by corporals and Legionnaires boldest, continued the assault. Column or row squad, crawling, bright eyes, the smile, comforting from their fallen comrades, the men of the second wave pushed forward in an orderly direction.
Lying in the tall grass, the wounded were calling. Those who could still hang sought to gather. But whoever was immediately raised his head broke. Then, on the field stood a huge silence disturbed only the whistling of bullets and groans.
Suddenly, on the side of the village, the high notes of the bugle sounded the charge. The cries of the final assault was heard bursting mat grenades and machine gun fire redoubled intensity … The survivors of the 3rd Battalion seized Belloy-en-Santerre.
At this time, it happened something sublime. Among the wounded and dying, we suddenly heard a rousing cry: “They are, they are Belloy is taken!”. Over the herbs, the wounded rose up, each wanted to try to see, try a last effort to accompany the happiest comrades.
Then a great clamor, part I do not know where, pushed by way weakened, but males and triumphant, above the tumult of battle and traveled throughout the battlefield: “Vive la Legion Vive la France!” It was the legionaries that took them to victory. ”

(Testimony of Captain Tscharner and testimony of Sergeant Henry Maladry)’

1916-07-belloy-en-santerreAt Six in the evening on July 4th, 1916, the Legion was ordered to clear the enemy out of a village at Belloy-en-Santerre. Alan Seeger was first to lead the charge of the final battle.  They were cut down by German machine gun fire, but suppressed the enemy enough that further waves were more successful.  They rushed past as a wounded Alan cheered them on.  The village was regained and the battle was won.  This was the Moment of Victory, and the turning point in the war.  The French would have further Success in the remaining days, but, for reasons unknown, the battle field lay unexamined that evening.

The next morning  with his bayonet stuck in the ground, Alan Seeger lay naked,



Long before the war Alan wrote his own best epitaph,

‘…when courted Death shall claim my limbs and find them
Laid in some desert place alone’

and the conclusion of his piece:

‘The Hosts’

There was a stately drama writ
By the hand that peopled the earth & air
And set the stars in the infinite
And made night gorgeous & morning fair;
And all that had sense to reason knew
That bloody drama must be gone through.
Some sat & watched how the action veered —
Waited, profited, trembled, cheered —
We saw not clearly nor understood,
But, yielding ourselves to the master hand,
Each in his part, as best he could,
We played it through as the author planned.

He had a rendezvous with death,…. living, and dying,…  greatly, Poetically, Heroically.

I can only have some relief in the profound Poetry he left us, and in knowing that Alan is very much ‘that blessed pilgrim of a vow fulfilled’





yes, my friend,… t’ is written.

{Free online Book of Alan Seeger’s Poems compliment of the Gutenberg Project : }

Reading of some selections of Alan Seeger’s Poems for the Radio show ‘The Living Poet Tree’ by Quinten Rhea ~

One would be fortunate to have even half the conviction and talent of Alan.  I am forever moved by his story and Poetry.  Memorial day and July 4th, have never been the same, and will forever be tinged with some somberness.   It is also though, made less bitter knowing that Alan lived, fought and gave his very life for his convictions.  He lived his Poetry.  He was in Love with Love.  We have to admire that, even with the burden of loss.

Help others.  Live your convictions.  Make the most of your Freedoms   You owe them that much.  ‘It is payment for the debt we owe.’   Though Alan never got to see his work published; I am so grateful Alan’s writing survived, and in that, Alan Seeger will live forever, and forever be “That Blessed Pilgrim of a Vow fulfilled.”

Alan Seeger
Lies in the Ossuary N° 1 with his comrades of the Foreign Legion
Born 22/06/1888 in New York, died for Freedom in France 04/07/1916 in Belloy en Santerre


The monument Honoring the Foreign Legion who fought fiercely for the taking and defending Belloy en Santerre.

LihonsFrenchNat SeegerA1LihonsFrenchNat2

A year later I produced a separate Radio segment on Alan Seeger.   It was in need of some subtle bed music, when I recalled the original Piano Composition I created years before that had no home.  Here is the eerie Magickal part of Art.  These two unrelated things separated by over 100 years just seem to fit right together.  It is uncanny how they match up in length, metre and even notes and mood with the changing pieces of Poetry written by Alan Seeger.  What is this strange magick?  What strange forces are at work in the fringes of the background? How haunting it is…It hits me in the throat every time as good Art always does; I hope it moves you in some way. ~
the link to free audio archive of Alan Seeger Poetry and my Piano ~>

or just the Poetry & Piano (minus the short Biography) :


~You are the Makers of Music and Art the Dreamers of Dreams and the heart of my Heart.  Stay inspired my Friends! ~ Quinten Rhea
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Fin ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
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