I Have a Rendezvous With Death:Poetry Analysis

Emma Riegert

American Literature

Mrs. Robinson

19 December, 2008

Poetry Analysis:

“I Have a Rendezvous with Death”~ by Alan Seeger

 

In, “I Have a Rendezvous with Death,” Alan Seeger uses diction, repetition, personification and even rhyme scheme to relate to his reader that, though inevitable and unpredictable, death is not something to be feared, but to calmly be accepted and perhaps anticipated.

The rhyme scheme throughout the three stanzas of the poem is somewhat uniform and standard. This makes the reading flow smoothly attributing to a calm tone to the entire piece. This reflects that the author is not particularly alarmed by his subject matter, in this case death, and suggests that his reader need not be either.

In, “I Have a Rendezvous with Death,” death is personified as the subject of the piece. He is mentioned in line nine as “take[ing] my hand [the narrator’s] hand.” The whole idea of a, “rendezvous” is based around the narrator meeting this personage of death as if he were to meet any other man. Spring also is given a degree of human characteristics. In nature, it is something waited for and looked forward to. Ironically, the narrator states, “When Spring comes back with rustling shade… I have a rendezvous with death (lines 5-7).” This is ironic because of the generalized natures of death and spring creating sharp contrasts between the unexpected, abrupt end of a life, or “disputable barricade,” and a period of green, new life budding. That death would be known to come in the midst of such a lively time as spring raises the question that perhaps the end of life is not quite as foreboding to the author as might be expected. Once again a description of spring’s beauty is related to this meeting with death: “I have a rendezvous with Death; When Spring brings back blue days and fair (lines 7-8).”

Diction is strongly used here in order to manipulate the connotations of the reader and to stir contradicting meanings. This creates almost a paradoxical literal tone within the calming auditory sound of the rhyme scheme: yet again demonstrating calm peace along side of a generally unpleasant situation. An example would be the reoccurring line, “I have a rendezvous with Death.” The word, “rendezvous” is more of a friendly term where a person would arrange to meet someone out of free will; perhaps even in reference to two lovers meeting. In contrast, death is the great unknown for all of mankind to fear. Essentially, the narrator of the poem has willingly arranged to meet with the foreboding thing that is known to be death. Why would he take such action unless he had reason to believe it was not as fearful an action to take as so many believe? The repetition of this line states and restates these questions and keeps the idea fresh in his audience’s mind. Yet again, Seeger also continues to relate this line with, “Spring,” creating even more contrasts and irony, as described in the above.

In his final stanza, Seeger sums up his point by describing a, “blissful sleep,” God knows ‘twere better… Where love throbs out…. Pulse nigh to pulse, and breath to breath where hushed awakenings are dear (lines 17-19).” Diction in these lines in words such a pulse, breath, and awakenings give the reader a vision of an afterlife- perhaps in the biblical heaven of God. Afterwards, however, the tone of the once again line, “I have a rendezvous with death,” is preceded with the coordinative conjunction, “but,” showing some degree of remorse or doubt. A different view of afterlife is then described when Seeger states that his “rendezvous” will occur, “At midnight in some flaming town (lines 20-21).” The last lines following turn the tone from the former hope of an anticipated rendezvous to a sense of obligation and duty to perform the inevitable: “When Spring trips north again this year, and I to my pledged word an true, I shall not fail this rendezvous (lines 22-24).” Unlike in the beginning of the poem, when the time of the rendezvous was “disputed (line 2),” the narrator names a specific detailed time at which he expects to meet death: at “midnight in some flaming town (line 21).”  This implies that though “God [knew] ‘twere better” to meet in the place of “blissful sleep” or heaven, he has made his choice according to his actions and intends to keep his, “pledged word” and follow through with his “rendezvous.”

The image of hope given to the narrator is given in the last stanza’s description of heaven parallels with the joyous re-birth and awakenings of spring. The “flaming town” of hell continues the immortal connotation and meaning of death as something to fear. In this poem, however, Alan Seeger presents the two in such a way as to encourage his audience to accept the life and joys offered in the afterlife “God knew ‘twere better” and so then not be obligated to an unwelcomed rendezvous.

 

I Have a Rendezvous With Death- Alan Seeger

 

 

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

         5

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.

  10

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

  15

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

  20

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.

 

 

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6 Comments

Filed under Essays, poetry

6 responses to “I Have a Rendezvous With Death:Poetry Analysis

  1. Dad

    Emma, well written. I love you. Daddy.

  2. sayitisntsam

    This is really good, I like the essay structure.

  3. Jessica

    I completely agree with the whole idea, and it helped me to understand alot more of his poem.

  4. anna

    i really like ur essay!

    in your opinion, what is the theme of this poem?
    i have a rendezvous with death-alan seeger

  5. JDFlea

    My mother found this and wanted me to read it. It is very well written, and an enlightening interpretation of the poem. Thank you. (It is refreshing to see such writing.)

  6. Clint

    This is a well written analysis, however, I don’t believe that Alan Seeger was making references to heaven and hell in this poem. I, personally, took it to mean that he is anticipating going to war in spring, and that even though he would rather stay home, he will keep his oath and risk his life on the battlefield.

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