July 30, 1918: Joyce Kilmer Killed in Action

I THINK that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in Summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

That poem written by Alfred Joyce Kilmer, better known as Joyce Kilmer, in 1914 is, unfortunately, all most Americans remember todayis regrettable, because he was a devout Catholic and an American patriot and he deserves better than relative historical oblivion.

 Born in 1886 into an Episcopalian family in New Brunswick , New Jersey,  Kilmer studied at the Rutgers College Grammar School, Rutgers College and graduated from Colombia in 1908.  Shortly after graduation he married Aline Murray, the love of his life, a poet in her own right.  Together they had a happy home and five children to fill it.

Initially teaching Latin in Morristown, New Jersey, Kilmer quickly embarked on a literary life, submitting essays and poems to the various magazines of the day.  From 1909 to 1912 he worked on the Funk and Wagnalls’ Dictionary.  In 1912 he became literary editor of The Churchman, a publication of the Episcopalian Church.  In 1913 he made the leap to being an ink-stained wretch and became a features writer for the New York Times.

In 1912 the Kilmers welcomed into this world their third child and second daughter, Rosamond (called Rose) Kilburn Kilmer.  Rose was afflicted with infantile paralysis.  A sick child often causes parents to look seriously at their faith, and the Kilmers were no different. Their conversion to Catholicism was no doubt helped along by Father James J. Daly, SJ, who became a good friend to the Kilmers after Rose’s birth, and who had been from 1898-1908 chaplain of the Fighting 69th, a New York National Guard regiment that was to play such a dominating role in Kilmer’s future.  Here is some of Kilmer’s correspondence with Father Daly that continued until Kilmer’s death.  In 1914, Kilmer wrote to Father Daly about his conversion: (more…)

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Published in: on July 30, 2018 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on July 30, 1918: Joyce Kilmer Killed in Action  
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Rouge Bouquet

 

 

In a wood they call the Rouge Bouquet
There is a new-made grave to-day,
Built by never a spade nor pick
Yet covered with earth ten metres thick.
There lie many fighting men,
Dead in their youthful prime,
Never to laugh nor love again
Nor taste the Summertime.
For Death came flying through the air
And stopped his flight at the dugout stair,
Touched his prey and left them there,
Clay to clay.
He hid their bodies stealthily
In the soil of the land they fought to free
And fled away.
Now over the grave abrupt and clear
Three volleys ring;
And perhaps their brave young spirits hear
The bugle sing:
“Go to sleep!
Go to sleep!
Slumber well where the shell screamed and fell.
Let your rifles rest on the muddy floor,
You will not need them any more.
Danger’s past;
Now at last,
Go to sleep!”
There is on earth no worthier grave
To hold the bodies of the brave
Than this place of pain and pride
Where they nobly fought and nobly died.
Never fear but in the skies
Saints and angels stand
Smiling with their holy eyes
On this new-come band.
St. Michael’s sword darts through the air
And touches the aureole on his hair
As he sees them stand saluting there,
His stalwart sons;
And Patrick, Brigid, Columkill
Rejoice that in veins of warriors still
The Gael’s blood runs.
And up to Heaven’s doorway floats,
From the wood called Rouge Bouquet
A delicate cloud of bugle notes
That softly say:
“Farewell!
Farewell!
Comrades true, born anew, peace to you!
Your souls shall be where the heroes are
And your memory shine like the morning-star.
Brave and dear,
Shield us here.
Farewell!”
Joyce Kilmer

Sergeant Kilmer wrote this poem to remember the nineteen men of the Fighting 69th killed in an artillery bombardment in the Rouge Bouquet wood on March 17, 1918.  It was read over the grave of Kilmer after he, too, was killed in action on July 30, 1918.  The Fighting 69th recite the poem each Memorial Day.

Published in: on July 27, 2018 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Rouge Bouquet  
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The Robe of Christ

 

 

 

 

THE ROBE OF CHRIST
(For Cecil Chesterton)

AT the foot of the Cross on Calvary
Three soldiers sat and diced,
And one of them was the Devil
And he won the Robe of Christ.

When the Devil comes in his proper form
To the chamber where I dwell,
I know him and make the Sign of the Cross
Which drives him back to Hell.

And when he comes like a friendly man
And puts his hand in mine,
The fervour in his voice is not
From love or joy or wine.

And when he comes like a woman,
With lovely, smiling eyes,
Black dreams float over his golden head
Like a swarm of carrion flies.

Now many a million tortured souls
In his red halls there be:
Why does he spend his subtle craft
In hunting after me?

Kings, queens and crested warriors
Whose memory rings through time,
These are his prey, and what to him
Is this poor man of rhyme,

That he, with such laborious skill,
Should change from role to role,
Should daily act so many a part
To get my little soul?

Oh, he can be the forest,
And he can be the sun,
Or a buttercup, or an hour of rest
When the weary day is done.

I saw him through a thousand veils,
And has not this sufficed?
Now, must I look on the Devil robed
In the radiant Robe of Christ?

He comes, and his face is sad and mild,
With thorns his head is crowned;
There are great bleeding wounds in his feet,
And in each hand a wound.

How can I tell, who am a fool,
If this be Christ or no?
Those bleeding hands outstretched to me!
Those eyes that love me so!

I see the Robe—I look—I hope—
I fear—but there is one
Who will direct my troubled mind;
Christ’s Mother knows her Son.

O Mother of Good Counsel, lend
Intelligence to me!
Encompass me with wisdom,
Thou Tower of Ivory!

“This is the Man of Lies,” she says,
“Disguised with fearful art:
He has the wounded hands and feet,
But not the wounded heart.”

Beside the Cross on Calvary
She watched them as they diced.
She saw the Devil join the game
And win the Robe of Christ.

Joyce Kilmer

Published in: on July 20, 2018 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on The Robe of Christ  
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Martin Treptow’s Pledge

Martin August Treptow was a barber from Cherokee, Iowa.  Enlisting in the National Guard, during World War I his unit was called up and Treptow found himself in the 168th Infantry, part of the 42nd Division, called the Rainbow Division by Major Douglas MacArthur, who would rise during the War to eventually command the division, because it consisted of National Guard units that stretched across the country like a rainbow.

July 30th, 1918 was a hard day for the division.  Participating in the Second Battle of the Marne which stopped the last major German offensive of the War and saved Paris from capture, the division was attempting to take Hill 212 on La Croix Rouge Farm and incurring heavy casualties.  A message from Treptow’s unit needed to be taken to another platoon.  Private Treptow did not hesitate, but grabbed the message and ran off with it.  As he neared the platoon leader to deliver the message, Treptow was cut down by a burst of German fire.  He was twenty-five years old.  Sergeant  Joyce Kilmer was killed on the same day, in the same battle, a little bit later.  Go here to read about him. (more…)

Memorial Day

“Dulce et decorum est”

The bugle echoes shrill and sweet,
But not of war it sings to-day.
The road is rhythmic with the feet
Of men-at-arms who come to pray.

The roses blossom white and red
On tombs where weary soldiers lie;
Flags wave above the honored dead
And martial music cleaves the sky.

Above their wreath-strewn graves we kneel,
They kept the faith and fought the fight.
Through flying lead and crimson steel
They plunged for Freedom and the Right.

May we, their grateful children, learn
Their strength, who lie beneath this sod,
Who went through fire and death to earn
At last the accolade of God.

In shining rank on rank arrayed
They march, the legions of the Lord;
He is their Captain unafraid,
The Prince of Peace . . . Who brought a sword. 

 

Joyce Kilmer (more…)

Published in: on May 29, 2011 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Memorial Day  
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