Monday, May 31, 2010

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.

-By: Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1918)
Canadian Army-

While living for two years in Eastern Canada, I learned about Rememberance Day. Vetrans organizations sold artificial poppies so the general public could show patriotism, and remember their dead.

I asked the natives about the tradition, and they pointed me to this poem. Canadian physician and Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae wrote it on 3 May 1915, after he witnessed the death of his friend, Lieutenant Alexis Helmer, 22 years old, the day before. The poem was first published on 8 December of that year in the London-based magazine Punch.

According to historical accounts, Memorial Day in the United States began shortly after the War between the states. It was a day to honor the war dead and continues today. Now, we honor all of our dead.

In the last part of the poem, MacCrae passes the torch to the next generation. He charges to take up his fight.

In My generation, many of us longed for a day when war would cease. Since then, I've lost faith. I fear that mankind will never learn. Also there is the issue of security, We will always have a military.

To follow MacCrae's charge, however, and line up to continue the fight in WWI would have been disastrous. I submit we can still put the dead to rest as he requests. We can remember them. We can remember the generations of good men and women who answered the call of their country. Those who fought whether they believed in that fight or not.

We can support those who fight today, even if we wish they weren't fighting. Along with the lessons of war, we can learn the lessons of the antiwar fight. Support our sons and daughters.

As for DR. MacCrae. We will remember your friend and all the others who have fallen in war. And those who might have never served, who fight the battles of living, then die. We will remember you too.

Whether you visit a cemetary or not, this weekend, take a moment and remember those who came before. The sacrifices they made brought for you the blessings you enjoy.

One last personal, note: When you remember, try to remember the lessons of history. If we forget, we will repeat it. With all my heart, I pray we don't repeat it again.

1 comment:

Ann Best said...

I LOVE this poem. Somewhere in all my poetry reading/writing I read this but I can't remember when or where. So glad you posted it. It's so perfect in rhythm/rhyme/sentiment. Haunting. Thank you.