Friday, November 11, 2011

In Flanders Field

Colonel John McCrae, who was Professor of Medicine at McGill University in Canada before WW1 (joined the McGill faculty in 1900 after graduating from the University of Toronto), first described the red poppy, the Flanders’ poppy, as the flower of remembrance.
Although he had been a doctor for years and had served in the Boer War as a gunner, but went to France in WW1 as a medical officer with the first Canadian contingent.


At the second battle of Ypres in 1915, when in charge of a small first-aid post, he wrote in pencil on a page from his dispatch book a poem that has come to be known as "Flanders’ Field" which described the poppies that marked the graves of soldiers killed fighting for their country. The major was no stranger to writing, having authored several medical texts besides dabbling in poetry. In the nearby cemetery, McCrae could see the wild poppies that sprang up in the ditches in that part of Europe.

McCrae's "In Flanders’ Fields" remains to this day one of the most memorable war poems ever written. It is a lasting legacy of the terrible battle in the Ypres salient in the spring of 1915.

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.



The wearing of the poppy to keep faith began when an American, Miss Moira Michael, read the poem "In Flanders Field" and was so greatly impressed that she decided always to wear a poppy to keep the faith. Miss Michael wrote a reply after reading "In Flanders Field" 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.

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3 comments:

  1. A beutiful reminder :) And a beautiful song

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  2. I thought I would let you know that the Remembrance cross stitch on my blog is on my wish list too! :)

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  3. Thank you for sharing this story.

    (((Hugs)))

    ReplyDelete

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