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In Flanders Fields

Posted on 11 Nov, 2015 in History | 30 comments

In Flanders Field

Born in Guelph, Canada, in 1872, John McCrae found himself on a faraway battlefield in the spring of 1915. As an army doctor surrounded by the dead and dying, he could see like no one else the price paid by his fellow soldiers. Indeed, a close friend of his, fellow Ontarian Alexis Helmer, had recently been killed by enemy fire.

Moved by the sacrifice around him, McCrae penned a poem that would become a universal eulogy for those who fought and died in the First World War. He chose the poppy – coquelicot in French – to color his verse. Bright red, the poppy grew well in the recently disturbed earth of the battlefields of northern Europe.

Walking the streets of Old Québec today, McCrae’s coquelicots were everywhere, adorning the lapels of the many who remember. They were blooming especially around the Sacrifice Cross, just outside of the city walls, as Québecers gathered to honor those who paid the ultimate price.

 

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.

John McCrae, 1915

30 Comments

  1. A great story, Neil.

    • Few poems move my heart like this especially touching reminder of the sacrifices loved ones have made for all.

  2. Always moved by that poem. It is truly universal.

  3. Very nice poem. I never heard about it before. I think I will get me a poppy today. If I can find one! Have a nice day!

  4. Neil,

    Thanks for sharing. Although I knew it referred to a WWW I event, I did not know the history of this poem.

    Lee

  5. belle façon de souligner le Jour du Souvenir, en ce 70e anniversaire de la fin de la Deuxième guerre mondiale.

  6. Thank you for honoring Veterans Day with this picture and poem. Hope all is well!

  7. Thanks for the history behind the poem.

  8. Absolutely, Please continue to send your articles. I truly enjoy reading about your beautiful city/country and hope to return soon. Warm regards, TN

  9. Merci Neil. J’ai entendu hier le poême en français lors de la cérémonie du Souvenir à Ottawa. Je suis contente de l’avoir maintenant en anglais. C’est beau et touchant.

  10. In Minnesota, around Memorial Day every year, the VFW sells their “buddy poppies” at various venues. I always look forward to buying and wearing one. Every time, I think of that wonderful poem. It always brings tears, and helps us remember what happened 100 years ago and beyond and since.

    Thank you, Neil.

  11. Its good to remember the stories on the poppy. Almost a forgotten war with so many ahead of it. Reading “The Doughboys:America and the First World War”. A good reading about our Country and this war. Almost a century since.

  12. J’apprécie le partage de ce poème. Il est très touchant et il nous remémore les événements passés. Merci Neil.

  13. Very appropriate poem to remind us how we ought to remember the fallen soldiers.Sadly today few consider taking up the torch passed on to us. Perhaps this is the reason so many countries are in such trouble. We have lost the values of liberty and the heavy price that was paid by those who came before us.

  14. Thank you for this remembrance. War is hell. Let us convince our leaders that to properly honour these dead we do not readily add to their numbers.

  15. A discussion this morning with Ontario friends and we had all memorized the poem in school with the first line as follows:

    In Flanders fields the poppies grow (not blow)

    Maybe a publishing error in our text books back in the 50’s and 60’s? Just curious about how this happened–

  16. Ah, Neil, thank you for the history of the poem which I have never read before! Very moving. -John

  17. We also memorized this poem in public school way back when(1940…50’s) with

    In Flanders field where Poppies grow….but no mind…we all still remember…!

    I helped my Mom & Dad pack parcels to send to my uncles in the war “over seas”!
    They were in the Airforce & Infantry! Packages included nylons…for women in families who fed them & helped them hide & escape. Cigarettes hidden in jello boxes…& treats…as thanks for helping get them out of the war zone & back to England to fight again!

    Both Uncles returned to Canada safely to live good lives.
    Thanks for the photo & emai & remembering!
    Regards…….Dianne

  18. Thank’s a lot Neil,

    A poem with a flower to make sure we’ll never forget…

    Nice!

  19. Merci Neil de partager ce poème qui nous rappelle le sacrifice de ces personnes.

  20. Hello Neil,

    No later than yesterday, I heard that touching poem read by Canadian artist Leonard Cohen, on CBC Radio One!

  21. Thanks

  22. Hi Neil, Greetings from Australia. I had never read the poem before but it is a wonderful reminder of the debt we owe to those who sacrificed themselves for the sake of freedom.

  23. Hi Neil,

    Your comment is particularly relevant as Qubec City was also, over 2 centuries, the site of many wars and crual deaths. Violence(especially wars) is always hard to understand.

    Thanks for your thoughts,

  24. touchant, ton temoignage. mDevenue accro à tes nouvelles….merci !

  25. Thanks for that Neil. Another great poet was Wilfred Owen, who was tragically killed on the last day of the war. Here is one of his anti-war poems:

    DULCE ET DECORUM EST

    Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
    Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
    Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
    And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
    Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
    But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
    Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
    Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.
    Gas! Gas! Quick, boys! – An ecstasy of fumbling,
    Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
    But someone still was yelling out and stumbling,
    And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime . . .
    Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
    As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
    In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
    He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.
    If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
    Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
    And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
    His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
    If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
    Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
    Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
    Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,
    My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
    To children ardent for some desperate glory,
    The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est
    Pro patria mori.

    Wilfred Owen
    Thought to have been written between October 1917 and March, 1918

    • I remember my father, a WW II vet, buying the paper poppy flowers that were sold around our village. I have not seen them lately. Thanks for the memories.

  26. I was at my Grandaughters school for their observance of Rememberance day. The choir sang a lovely version of this poem. The children K to 12 memorized the poem as I did in the forties at school..one prays we will never forget! Joan.

  27. Thank you for posting this post, Neil! The history behind it can be held true today in this crazy world we live in!

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