Monday, November 12, 2007

In Flanders Fields

Today is the annual observance called Veterans Day in the United States -- Monday, November 12, 2007. The date varies each year with the calendar, whatever is the second Monday in November, in accordance with changes that took place in the list of Federal holidays during Lyndon Johnson's presidency. Government workers wanted three-day weekends, so voila! (vwah-lah for the French-impaired), three-day weekends they would henceforth have. Lincoln's Birthday (Feb. 12) and Washington's Birthday (Feb. 22) were out; we would have the non-specific Presidents Day instead! And the old Armistice day (Nov. 11) honoring those who fought in World War I was out; we would have Veterans Day instead to honor the living veterans of all wars. After all, the logic went, we had Memorial Day in May to honor those who had died in all wars. Armistice Day had become superfluous, expendable.

But some of us can remember older relatives who had served in the military during World War I; we can remember buying and wearing poppies on the eleventh day of the eleventh month in their honor; we can remember pausing at the eleventh hour for a moment of silence to remember the human toll of the war that was supposed to end all wars.

Now that I have my own blog and can do whatever I want with it, I choose today to post the following poem by John McCrae (1872-1918). He was a Canadian physician and fought on the Western Front in 1914, but was then transferred to the medical corps and assigned to a hospital in France. He died of pneumonia while on active duty in 1918. The poem was written in 1915 while he was serving in Belgium.


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.

1 comment:

  1. My comment is a year late......this is a very nice post for Veterans'/Armistice Day. I don't think I knew about the connection between the red poppies and the poem and Flanders Field. Thank you!