Poem 'In Flanders Fields'
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.
At the time, Major John McCrae was working in a field dressing station on the road between Ypres and Boezinge. While there, he was mainly involved in treating victims of the German gas attacks. Soon after he wrote the poem, he was transferred, as Chief of Medical Services, to a Canadian field hospital in France, where the wounded from the battles of the Somme, Vimy Ridge, Arras, and Passchendaele were treated.
McCrae discarded the sheet of paper on which he had written the poem. It might never have been published but for a fellow officer who found McCrae’s notes and sent them to a number of London magazines. The poem first appeared in the magazine Punch and immediately touched the hearts of the British people.
In the summer of 1917, John McCrae suffered attacks of asthma and bronchitis, almost certainly as a consequence of inhaling chlorine gas during the Second Battle of Ypres. On 23 January 1918, McCrae fell ill with pneumonia and was admitted to hospital. He died five days later at only 46 years of age. McCrae is buried in Wimereux, north of Boulogne (France).
Canal bank - Essex Farm Cemetery
Next tot Diksmuidseweg 148 - 8900 Ieper. Free admission
For the poppy has many aspects to it: irrepressible yet ephemeral, wilting but also uplifting. It is a vulnerable flower, on the borderline between ode and elegy. For McCrae, the poppy kept alive the memory of a young generation that was nipped in the bud before it could bloom. His words touch a chord with a great many readers.
John McCrae would not live to see his poem’s success. In 1918, the year in which McCrae died, a young American woman became the first person to pin a silk poppy to her clothes. Her symbolic gesture was copied throughout the British Commonwealth and the poppy was soon adopted as the official symbol to be used in commemoration of the victims of the Great War.