Last Updated September 5, 2023.
Alan Seeger penned "I Have a Rendezvous with Death" as a young man who, from all accounts, was in constant search of the next grand adventure. In World War I, he joined the French Legion as an American, as the United States had not yet entered this war. It was in this war in France that Seeger had his own meeting with Death.
Although there are hints of a military setting in the poem in phrases such as "disputed barricade" and "scarred slope of battled hill," the poem itself does not read as a strict military narrative and even those terms can be interpreted as metaphors for difficult or uncertain circumstances. Therefore, this particular rendezvous is general enough to be applicable to any reader, regardless of the setting in which he encounters death.
The repetition of the title occurs four times in the relatively short poem. This serves two purposes. First, the narrator seems to be marching forward toward the inevitable. He understands that death is approaching, and there is a sense of duty and honor in going forward to meet this ultimate end. There is not a tone of regret and there is no hint of fear. The narrator, through the repetition, conveys that he realizes what is coming. The final line both hints at this repetition and brings it to closure: "I shall not fail that rendezvous." Interestingly, this line becomes symbolic for the author's own end of life, almost foreshadowing the events that unfolded in war.
The word rendezvous itself is French, significant because of the location in which the poem was penned. It also connotes a somewhat light meeting, as one would use when meeting a friend. This is an interesting choice, using it to establish an agreed-upon location with Death, a situation many would find fearsome. The use of rendezvous further solidifies that the narrator holds no fear or apprehension about the end he realizes is coming.
The rhyme pattern changes from stanza to stanza, signifying the unpredictable nature of meeting Death. Although there is predictability in knowing that each person will eventually have his own rendezvous with Death, there is no predictability in knowing how or when that meeting will come. Moving from stanza to stanza in an irregular rhyme pattern furthers this idea.
The narrator also juxtaposes the idea of dying with imagery of spring in each of the three stanzas. Spring is often symbolic of rebirth, hope, and new beginnings, so while the narrator realizes that his end is coming and is accepting of that fate, he also longs for the new beginning that will follow.