Back in high school, when I was probably 16 or 17 years old, I had to memorize the poem “In Flanders Fields.” We were learning about World War I, and it was part of a group of poems and other literature that had been written about the war and the people who fought in it. I always found it an incredibly moving and sad poem, as most writings about war usually are, but there was something about the striking visuals the words evoked that made it more sad and more emotional than others I’d read. You can see the blood red flowers, you can see the stark white crosses, you can see the bright green blades of grass. It’s all there. Part of the reason it’s always stayed in my mind, nearly 20 years later now, is that it’s the first piece of prose I ever had to memorize. I’d had to memorize Bible verses in grammar school, the preamble to the Constitution, things like that…..but nothing quite like this poem.
With 2014 being 100 years since the start of the war, and with November being the month for remembering and commemorating those who’ve paid the ultimate price in our country’s war games, I thought I’d share that poem with you now, written by Lt. John McCrae, a Canadian who was a surgeon during the war, and who died in Ypres in 1918.
“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.”