Tuesday, May 29, 2012

In Flanders Fields

From Wikipedia: “In Flanders Fields” is a war poem in the form of a rondeau, written during the First World War by Canadian physician and Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae. He was inspired to write it on May 3, 1915, after presiding over the funeral of friend and fellow soldier Alexis Helmer, who died in the Second Battle of Ypres

The damage done to the landscape in Flanders during the battle greatly increased the lime content in the soil, leaving the poppy as one of the few plants able to grow in the region.

In Flanders fields the poppies grow
      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.

Dr. McCrae actually threw away the poem after writing it because he wasn’t satisfied with it.  It was retrieved and he was convinced to polish it some more.  It was published in the English magazine “Punch,” and swiftly became one of the most famous war poems ever written.  It is because of this poem that paper poppies are sold near Veterans Day as a fund raiser for veterans’ causes.

The poem was recited at a Memorial Day service Ann Peters and I have made a habit of attending every year.  The Police Band played, and the magnificent voice of Robert Robinson was again heard.  This year Governor Dayton spoke.  He did a good job, keeping it brief and evoking the amazing sacrifices made by our soldiers, sailors and airmen.  The weather was beautiful, the music solemn and moving, and ending with Taps and a release of white doves.  We wept through some of it, but they were good tears.

1 comment:

Linda O. Johnston said...

What an interesting history of the poem, Monica. I remember hearing the poem as a child and thinking how sad it was.