In Flanders Fields

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae (1872-1918). It is just so moving and powerful you find yourself coming back to it again and again–KSH.

P.S. the circumstances which led to the poem are well worth remembering:

It is a lasting legacy of the terrible battle in the Ypres salient in the spring of 1915 and to the war in general. McCrea had spent seventeen days treating injured men — Canadians, British, French, and Germans in the Ypres salient. McCrae later wrote: “I wish I could embody on paper some of the varied sensations of that seventeen days… Seventeen days of Hades! At the end of the first day if anyone had told us we had to spend seventeen days there, we would have folded our hands and said it could not have been done.” The next day McCrae witnessed the burial of a good friend, Lieut. Alexis Helmer. Later that day, sitting on the back of an ambulance parked near the field dressing station, McCrea composed the poem. A young NCO, delivering mail, watched him write it. When McCrae finished writing, he took his mail from the soldier and, without saying a word, handed his pad to the Sergeant-major. Cyril Allinson was moved by what he read: “The poem was exactly an exact description of the scene in front of us both. He used the word blow in that line because the poppies actually were being blown that morning by a gentle east wind. It never occurred to me at that time that it would ever be published. It seemed to me just an exact description of the scene.” Colonel McCrae was dissatisfied with the poem, and tossed it away. A fellow officer retrieved it and sent it to newspapers in England. The Spectator, in London, rejected it, but Punch published it on 8 December 1915. For his contributions as a surgeon, the main street in Wimereaux is named “Rue McCrae”.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, History, Military / Armed Forces

6 comments on “In Flanders Fields

  1. recchip says:

    Here is a “response” To “In Flanders Fields” which takes up the “torch”.

    “We Shall Keep the Faith” is a poem penned by Moina Michael in November 1918.

    Oh! you who sleep in Flanders Fields,
    Sleep sweet – to rise anew!
    We caught the torch you threw
    And holding high, we keep the Faith
    With All who died.

    We cherish, too, the poppy red
    That grows on fields where valor led;
    It seems to signal to the skies
    That blood of heroes never dies,
    But lends a lustre to the red
    Of the flower that blooms above the dead
    In Flanders Fields.

    And now the Torch and Poppy Red
    We wear in honor of our dead.
    Fear not that ye have died for naught;
    We’ll teach the lesson that ye wrought
    In Flanders Fields.
    In Flanders Fields we fought

    May we never forget our Veterans. God Bless the Veterans, God Bless Their Families and God Bless America!!

    Chip Byers, Detachment (State) Commander, Sons of the American Legion. Virginia

  2. kkollwitz says:

    Last spring I wrote a bit about Flanders…Ypres, to be specific, but an appropriate reflection for today:

  3. Ian+ says:

    In Flanders’ Fields was memorized by generations of Canadian school children and sung or said at Remembrance Day services across Canada for decades, but sadly it’s rare to hear it there now. I didn’t hear it today. But we did sing O God our help in ages past, along with O Canada and God Save the Queen!

  4. Ross Gill says:

    In Flanders Fields was sung at the national service in Ottawa this morning. Very moving.

  5. justinmartyr says:

    The poem is powerful. Unfortunately millions lost their lives in a purposeless war. A less catchy plea for sanity (Blessed are the peacemakers) would have left so many more families intact.

  6. Chris Molter says:

    I wish WWI would get more attention in history classes, popular meda, etc. It really was the major event in modernity, but so few know or care about it.