In Flanders Fields

by John McCrae

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
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.

[Suggested by Timothy Lane] __________________________________________________
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12 Responses to In Flanders Fields

  1. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    And in the U.K. and some Commonwealth countries, you still see paper poppies pinned on to lapels leading up to Armistice Day. Still heartbreaking.

  2. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:


    It is amazing the number of poems and books which you mention which I would have also mentioned or have read. One of things this shows is the standard “anthology” of what was required to be educated in the USA in the 1950’s and 1960’s. People had a common literary vocabulary which they used. This had been passed down and edited through the years.

    It was the same with the Bible and Shakespeare, literate phrases and aphorisms from both made up a common language for the English speaking peoples. This is fading away rather quickly.

    Now we have “dude”, “LOL” and such. Pathetic.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      There’s probably a lot of truth to that. In my high school days, we certainly had to read a lot of poetry, and in fact I’ve made use of my junior and senior year English readers for some of these. Even Ogden Nash I initially encountered in a (lower grade) reader. On the other hand, while I had heard of “In Flanders Fields”, I first read a copy in Leon Wolff’s In Flanders Fields (not surprisingly), a history of the Third Battle of Ypres (and, to a lesser extent, the 1917 Western front campaign in general). I also have a copy in Martin Gilbert’s history of World War I (which includes quite a bit of poetry, some of which I may want to include here sometime) and a true-crime book I got and read several years ago (the author used the poem in training crime investigators).

      One thing I find interesting is that, while acknowledging the price of war (a price McCrae eventually paid), it nevertheless defends the war overall. I’m not sure how many people who’ve heard of the poem realize this, which is one reason I included it here.

      I believe it was John MacWhorter who pointed out that poetry is generally not taught today (of course, I’m not sure how much contemporary poetry is worth reading anyway), so that people don’t develop a taste for it. He seemed to regret that in his own case (which also indicates that this educational lack began, probably, not long after my time).

      • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

        As I recall, the fact that the author died in the war was taught while we studied the poem.

        I suppose there are a number of “poets” who can be blamed for the death of poetry. I would guess e.e. cummings would be near the top of the list. While some of his poetry may have been passably good, as a child, I found his “need to be novel” somewhat irritating. I suspect may others did as well.

        I think Brad has touched on this in general, but in my mind, the need to be novel in art is too often an admission of one’s mediocrity. Few and far between are the really talented people who can be truly novel and take their art in a new direction.

      • Giovanna Visconti says:

        God I love that poem, Timothy!

        On my PC desktop, I keep copies of four poems:

        In Flanders Field
        The Second Coming
        “The Soldier,” by Rupert Brooke, one of the most beautiful poems ever written connected to war:

        The Soldier
        Rupert Brooke

        If I should die, think only this of me:
        That there’s some corner of a foreign field
        That is forever England. There shall be
        In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
        A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
        Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam,
        A body of England’s, breathing English air,
        Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home.

        And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
        A pulse in the Eternal mind, no less
        Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given,
        Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
        And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,
        In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.

        • Timothy Lane says:

          Check back a little further in the Poetry, and you will find a copy of “Ozymandias”, which I recommended (along with “The Destruction of Sennacherib” at the same time, as I recall). My senior English term paper was on Shelley’s “The Mask of Anarchy”, and I suspect “Ozymandias” is what led me to check him out sufficiently to encounter the poem.

      • Giovanna Visconti says:

        We were assigned quite a bit of poetry when I was in junior high and high school. Well, THAT should indicate I’m probably even older than YOU, Timothy! 🙂

        Tennyson remains one of my favorite poets, and in fact we had to read “Idylls of the King” in my junior year! Can you IMAGINE that being the case today?

        Anyway, to your point about McCrae’s poem defending the war, I always thought it did too! Or at least he’s saying: Do not let us die in vain.

        THAT is one of the things I find so disturbing about this administration’s callousness in relation to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

        Our forces should have been allowed to FIGHT, VANQUISH, WIN–and LEAVE. Instead, it was Vietnam all over again!

        And NOW…NOW, this submissive bunch of moral cowards in Washington–and that goes for both sides–have said to so many maimed youngsters, and to the memory of too many lost young lives: Eh. Who cares.

        “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 with us who die
        We shall not sleep,…”

        I can only hope that every politician who supports the Little Fascist’s policies in Iraq and Afghanistan (and Iran!) is haunted until HE/SHE cannot sleep another night ever again.

        That’s the least they should suffer.

        • Timothy Lane says:

          Yes, I’m pretty sure that I never read the poem until it was used as a book epigraph for Leonard Wolff’s history, In Flanders Fields because I hadn’t realized it was basically pro-war. Incidentally, I’m submitting another World War I poem, albeit an untitled one.

          As for Tennyson, my senior English text included an excerpt from “The Idylls of the King”, but I don’t know if we read it. We did read “The Charge of the Light Brigade” in 6th grade (and I memorized it at the time, and some years ago did a parody of it for FOSFAX). Incidentally, Rudyard Kipling did a follow-up to the poem dealing with what had happened to the survivors, which I read in a recent history of the charge by the regimental historian of one of the cavalry units.

    • Giovanna Visconti says:

      I’m still not certain I understand how to post a link, so I’m going to recommend a recent article by Heather MacDonald that ran in the WSJ, and also at City Journal.

      The title is: The Humanities and Us

      Apparently it caused quite an angry stir among the present-day purveyors of “higher education.” In the piece, MacDonald identifies a serious and dangerous poison that has been simmering beneath the “education” surface for decades and is now running its destructive course above ground.

      If you search for http://www.cityjournal.or you will be taken to the online version of the quarterly. MacDonald’s piece is right there on the home page, as is her response (“Nothing More Timeless Than Ignorance”) to one Rebecca Schuman, Slate’s education columnist and an adjunct literature instructor at the University of Missouri, St. Louis.

      MacDonald’s essay is long, but it is important and very worth reading! I recommend it highly.

      • Giovanna Visconti says:

        That should be!

        Knew I’d screw that up!

        Anyway…just google “City Journal” then click the link and that will take you to the online version of the magazine where you’ll find MacDonald’s article and her response to Schuman.

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