Alfred Joyce Kilmer

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Rating: 4.33

Alfred Joyce Kilmer Biography

Alfred Joyce Kilmer was born in New Brunswick, New Jersey on December 6, 1886. He was educated at Columbia University, graduating in 1908. From 1909 to 1912 he was associated with Funk and Wagnall's Company, working as an editor on their dictionary. He served as Literary Editor of the "The Churchman", an Anglican newspaper (Joyce Kilmer converted to Catholicism towards the end of 1913) and in 1913 became a member of the staff of "The New York Times."

When the U.S. declared war on Germany in 1917, Kilmer was a family man with a wife and children. He would not have been required to serve. Never-the-less he enlisted as a private in the Seventh Regiment, New York National Guard. At his request and with the assistance of Father Duffy, he transferred into the 165th Infantry, the old Fighting 69th. While the Regiment was at Camp Mills he was transferred to Company H, Headquarters Company and assumed the position of Senior Regimental Statistician. Once in France he quickly attained the rank of Sergeant and was attached to the newly organized Regimental Intelligence staff as an observer. He spent many nights on patrol in no-man's land gathering information which would be of tactical importance to the Regiment and the Division.

In his position on the Regiment's Intelligence staff, Kilmer had no front line responsibilities during combat operations, but he would not be kept out of action while his comrades were at risk. On July 30th 1918, during the battle of the Ourcq, he attached himself as adjutant to Major William Donovan, commanding the First Battalion. Donovan's adjutant, Lt. Oliver Ames had been killed in combat the day before. A sniper's bullet ended the soldier-poet's life. He died, at 31 years of age, facing the enemy.

The Regiment's principle objective on that day had been the high ground of Muercy Farm. Lt. Ames and Sgt. Kilmer were buried side by side in a creek bed on that farm.


Joyce Kilmer was awarded the French Croix de Guerre for bravery.
Camp Kilmer in New Jersey is named for him.

As a poet and author, Kilmer is remembered today mostly for the poem "Trees" published in 1914. At the time of his entry into military service he was considered the premiere American Catholic poet alive. Much of his work expressed his deep religious beliefs. An example is "Prayer of a Soldier in France." Such expressions of faith are not popular in the later half of the 20th century.

The Best Poem Of Alfred Joyce Kilmer

Memorial Day

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

The rose blossoms 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.

Alfred Joyce Kilmer Comments

Earl Clark 26 July 2010

Truly one of the great poets of the ages. He was a compassionate soul. The house with nobody in it. Often I went by an empty house and shared the same feelings but he expressed it in a very unique way.

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