Sunday, November 11, 2012

November 11, 1918

(Photograph of French poppies by Papy Biou, 2008)


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.

[Editor’s note. This poem was written by John McCrae (1872-1918), a Canadian physician who fought on the Western Front in 1914. He was then transferred to the medical corps and assigned to a hospital in France, where he died of pneumonia while on active duty in 1918. He wrote the poem in 1915 while he was serving in Belgium. --RWP]


Snowbrush said...

"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..."

Apparently the thirst for martial glory continues on, even after death.

Rubye Jack said...

This is a touching and poignant poem that serves as a nice tribute to our veterans. Thank you.

Harriet said...

I am glad to read this poem again. My dad, who told me stories of WWI, where his older brother served when he was a schoolboy, often quoted it.

My post about it is

Thank you for the reminder. 8)

rhymeswithplague said...

Snowbrush, I'm sorry you didn't like this poem. To me, that final verse is more a plea from the dead that they did not die in vain. Or fought in vain, either.

Rubye Jack, I've never thought of this poem as a tribute to our veterans. More as a remembrance of our war dead.

Harriet (a.k.a. l'empress-liscious), thank you for commenting on my blog. Welcome! My dad also had an older brother who served in WWI. Very few people now living living remember it. I do remember pausing in school for two minutes of silence at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month each year.

Yorkshire Pudding said...

And the slaughter is still happening. Flanders or Helmand. It's all the same. I bow to the lads who have gone. Thank you for reminding me of this poem.

Snowbrush said...

"I'm sorry you didn't like this poem."

Oh, I think it's a great poem. I hadn't read it in years, but now that I'm older and more jaundiced in regard to war, it strikes me differently. For instance, "Take up our quarrel with the foe" sounds very different regarding a just war (if there is such a thing) versus a war that we never should have gotten involved in, and in which taking up the quarrel with the foe only means sending more people to die for no reason.

LightExpectations said...

Thank you.

rhymeswithplague said...

Yorkshire Pudding and LightExpectations, thank you for your simple thank yous. They tell me I am doing something right. I'm glad you were touched, as was I, by the poem.

Snowbrush said...

"Yorkshire Pudding and LightExpectations, thank you for your simple thank yous."

I came between them, and I didn't get thanked--ha. Look, I can watch war documentaries and read first-hand accounts of war, and get as weepy as the next person. People frequently perform wonderfully unselfish and heroic acts in war, in any war, so I'm not trashing veterans but the people who find it only too easy to send them to their deaths. It's like the bumper says, "Support the troops. Bring them home."

rhymeswithplague said...

Snowbrush, you got thanked for your previous comment and then you commented on my comment and I didn't want to get into an Alphonse and Gaston routine. But, a bit belatedly, my good friend, I thank you.

I used to think my Dad was a sentimental old fool when he would watch black-and-white movies of World War II on TV and cry whenever "Taps" was played. Then I got older and discovered I had a soft spot as well.

Snowbrush said...

Your latest post about the unimportant news (like that about Israel), reminded me that I heard a Hamas leader say that Hamas would not let those who have died have do so in vain, and it reminded me of this poem, and that led me to the thought that while John McCrae was expressing that same sentiment, the people he fought against were also expressing it. If no one is willing to "let the dead die in vain," then the only way a war can end is when one side is obliterated.

Snowbrush said...

I would be surprised if you hadn't read the following, but it's always good for a re-read:

rhymeswithplague said...

Snow, yes, I have read Mark Twain's piece before. It could have been written by you yourself.

Snowbrush said...

"It could have been written by you yourself."

Surely by you also because it does capture what victory for "our side" means to those on the "other side," those whom we are commanded to love and who are praying to their own "Source of Love" for help in annihilating us.

"For our sakes who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimmage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet!

"We ask it, in the spirit of love, of Him Who is the Source of Love, and Who is the ever-faithful refuge and friend of all that are sore beset and seek His aid with humble and contrite hearts. Amen."

I've read two books of late by Navy Seals, both of whom were Christians, and I couldn't imagine how they reconciled the two given that they worship a deity who commands his followers to return good for evil, yet they stand ready to kill anyone anywhere on the authority of one man, their president. All I could think was they were fervent Christians in the same way that they were patriotic Americans. In other words, they were born into it. Had they been from the Gaza Strip, they would have been Hamas fighters who worshipped still another God of Peace. I could find no no substance to their beliefs about anything.

rhymeswithplague said...

Snow, I don't want us to turn the comments section of this post into pro- or anti-war arguments, not at all. I must point out, however, that as a Christian I firmly believe that "still another God of Peace" does not exist anywhere.

Snowbrush said...

"I must point out, however, that as a Christian I firmly believe that "still another God of Peace" does not exist anywhere."

Are you saying that Allah is a false God or that the true God wears different names?

rhymeswithplague said...

I'm saying I believe there is only one God in the entire universe. He has many names. Some of his compound names in the Bible are Jehovah-rapha (I am the God who heals), Jehovah-jireh (I am the God who provides) Jehovah-ra-ah (I am your shepherd), Jehovah-tsidkenu (I am the Lord your righteousness). And the name Jesus (Yeshua in Hebrew) means the Lord who saves.

The Muslims may be worshiping the true God but imperfectly or they may be worshiping a false God. You'd have to take it up with them. Their book is quite a bit different from ours, though. Our book doesn't tell us to get rid of all the Jews, for example.

Snowbrush said...

"The Muslims may be worshiping the true God but imperfectly or they may be worshiping a false God."

Okay, thank you.