Archibald MacLeish

MacLeish is best known as Assistant Secretary of State in the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration. However, his first book of poems, Tower of Ivory, was published in 1917. A number of his wartime poems were published in a volume, Kenneth, along with his brother’s war letters. Archibald’s brother, Kenneth, flew for the Royal Air Force and was shot down over Belgium in 1918. Archibald MacLeish enlisted as a private and served in France. After a brief stay in France he was ordered to serve as a gunnery instructor at Camp Meade. He served there until the end of the war.

 
"The Too-Late Born"

We too, we too, descending once again
The hills of our own land, we too have heard
Far off –Ah, que ce cor a longue haleine—
The horn of Roland in the passages of Spain,
the first, the second blast, the failing third,
And with the third turned back and climbed once more
The steep road southward, and heard faint the sound
Of swords, of horses, the disastrous war,
And crossed the dark defile at last, and found
At Roncevaux upon the darkening plain
The dead against the dead and on the silent ground
The silent slain – 
 

Reflective Questions: "The Too-Late Born"
 
The third line roughly translated means: “Ah, that this horn has long breath.” The horn of Roland is an old-style war horn that was found in the tomb of Roland near the town of Ronceveaux.  
  1. Research the identity of Roland.
  2. What is it that “we too have heard?”
  3. What power does the horn of Roland have? 
  4. What are the blasts to which MacLeish refers?
  5. In the end what remains?