As history shows, our natural realms have always been ravaged by man’s most crushing weapon: industry. Authors have always noted this battle, but none contrasted the two worlds as beautifully as these two men. Although born close to one another both in time and region, poet Joyce Kilmer and novelist Upton Sinclair pursued very different thematic paths in their writing, the former focusing on praising the natural world around him while the latter attacked the industrial world of man.
Joyce Kilmer was born on December 6, 1886 in New Brunswick, New Jersey. He was the youngest child of Dr. Frederick Barnett Kilmer and Annie Ellen Kilburn. He entered Rutgers College Grammar School in 1895 at the young age of eight and went on to graduate in 1904. He continued his education at Rutgers College from 1904 to 1906, when he transferred to Columbia College of Columbia University in New York City. There, he completed his Bachelor of Arts degree and graduated on May 23, 1908. Only a few weeks later, he was married to Aline Murray on June 9, 1908. Together they had five children, Kenton Sinclair Kilmer, Rose Kilburn Kilmer, Deborah Clanton Kilmer, Michael Barry Kilmer and finally Christopher Kilmer (Biography, 1). In 1909 he began working for the Standard Dictionary, where he would prepare new definitions for the dictionary. During his time at Standard Dictionary he wrote much of his first volume, Summer of Love. He left to become the literary editor for the Episcopal magazine, Churchman in 1912. However, when a much more lucrative position opened up at the New York Times in 1913, Kilmer moved on. While working at the Times, he wrote for the Sunday magazine and book-review section. His poem “Trees” was published in Poetry: a Magazine of Verse in August of 1913 and this huge success gained him national recognition (Joyce, 1). Unfortunately, in the fall of 1913, his daughter Rose was diagnosed with infantile paralysis. After this tragic event, he converted from Episcopalianism to Roman Catholicism and that conversion is apparent in all of his later work. Trees and Other Poems was published in 1914. This collection of poems reflected much influence from seventeenth-century poets such as George Herbert, Henry Baugan and Richard Crashaw, as well as influence from more recent poets like A.E. Housman, Edwin Arlington Robinson and Covertry Patmore (Joyce, 2). The Circus and Other Essays, a collection of previously published essays, was published in 1916 followed by Literature in the Making, a series of interviews with literary personages such as William Dean Howells and Amy Lowell that was published in 1917. His last collection of poetry Main Street and Other Poems was also published in 1917 and it was much mellower and more varied than all of his previous work (Joyce, 3). In April of 1917, he joined the New York National Guard. He was enlisted as a Private of the Seventh Regiment. Then in August of the same year, he joined the U.S. 69th Infantry Regiment of the 42nd “Rainbow” Division, better known as the “Fighting 69th.” He rose in ranks to become a Sergeant, and even though he was eligible for commission and was often recommended he refused them all, stating he would rather be a sergeant in the “Fighting 69th” than an officer in any other regiment (Biography, 2). While abroad, he wrote his famous World War II poems: “The Cathedral of Rheims,” “The White Ships and the Red (Joyce, 3),” and “Rouge Bouquet” which was written after the First Battalion of the 42nd Division. The division had been occupying the Rouge Bouquet forest northeast of Baccarat in France on March 12, 1918 when they were struck by heavy artillery bombardments which killed 21 men of the unit. During July 1918, during the Second Battle of Marne, there was a lot of heavy fighting. On July 30, 1918 Kilmer led a scouting party to find the position of a German machine gun. Later, comrades found him dead. He had died from a gunshot wound to the head and was buried in the Oise-Aisne...
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