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.
Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1918)
I recall memorizing this poem when, I believe, I was in Junior High school. I know it seems a strange choice of poems for a young girl to memorize, but I just found it very moving, somehow. As an adult, it now has even more meaning when we observe Memorial Day every year.
I found the story behind the writing of this poem very moving, as well. John McCrae was a poet and physician from Ontario, Canada. In 1915, he was serving as a surgeon attached to the 1st Field Artillery Brigade during the terrible battle of the Ypres. On May 2, 1915, a young friend and former student, Alexis Helmer, of Ottawa, was killed by a shell burst. Lt. Helmer was buried later that day in the small cemetery outside McCrae's dressing station. In the absence of a chaplain, McCrae performed the funeral ceremony himself.
The next day, May 3, 1915, McCrae was sitting on the back of an ambulance, when he was moved to write this famous poem. He noted how the wild poppies grew around the graves of those who had died at Ypres, and he wrote down these fifteen lines in a notebook. He then gave the notebook to a fellow soldier, Sergent Major Cyril Allison, who later convinced McCrae to send it in for publication. "In Flanders Fields" was first published by London-based magazine, Punch, on December 8, 1915.
The poem's references to the red poppies resulted in the remembrance poppy becoming such a recognized symbol for soldiers who have died in battle.
Flanders Field American Cemetery, containing the graves of 368 Americans, is located in Waregem, Belgium. It is the smallest of eight permanent American cemeteries commemorating World War I in Europe.