Thursday, November 11, 2010

Veteran's Day, 2010

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.
Lt. Col. John McCrae

In Flanders Fields" remains to this day one of the most memorable war poems that has ever been written. It is the lasting legacy of the horrendous battle in the Ypres Salient in the spring of 1915.   Canadian poet, John McCrae,  was a medical officer in both the Boer War and World War I. It was a year, on December 8, 1915, well into the latter war that he first  published Flanders Fields in Punch magazine,  the sole work by which he would be remembered. This poem commemorates the deaths of the thousands of young men who died in Flanders during the  battles there, and, in fact, the day before he wrote this poem, one of his closest friends had been killed and buried in a grave with a simple wooden cross. 

  The poem itself created a great sensation and was used widely as a recruiting tool to inspire other young men to join the Army. Legend has it that he was inspired by seeing the blood-red poppies blooming in the fields where many friends had died. In 1918,  McCrae died at the age of 46, in the way most men died during that war, not from a bullet or bomb, but from disease....pneumonia.

An American, Miss Moira Michael, read In Flanders’ Fields and wrote a reply entitled We Shall Keep the Faith:

Oh! You who sleep in Flanders’ fields,
Sleep sweet - to rise anew,
We caught the torch you threw,
And holding high we kept
The faith with those who died.
We cherish too, the poppy red
That grows on fields where valour 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
Wear in honour of our dead.
Fear not that ye have died for naught
We’ve learned the lesson that ye taught
In Flanders’ fields.

But, why the poppy?  Why has it become the symbol of remembrance?   It seems that in Flanders, the western part of Belgium, some of the battles had been the bloodiest and deadliest of World War I.   Flanders was a scene of complete devastation.  Buildings, roads, homes, and even trees had virtually disappeared and once where there had been farms, there was now just a sea of mud, a grave for the dead where the living kept on fighting....but, there was one other thing that survived....the poppy which brought hope and reassurance to those still fighting.


  1. Great post, Mary! I've never read the reply to "In Flanders Fields" before.

  2. I always buy a poppy from a veteran but never knew the story behind the flower.
    THX m/f.
    Nice written blog.

  3. Thank you for this lovely and moving Veterans Day post.