In Flanders Fields

Canadian physician John McCrae volunteered for World War I in 1914 and served as a brigade surgeon for an artillery unit. He was involved in Second Battle of Ypres, where the Germans launched an assault that included the war’s first use of poisonous chlorine gas. He cared for many wounded, including a close friend who died.

In the aftermath, McCrae wrote a poem about those he and others could not save.

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.

3 thoughts on “In Flanders Fields”

  1. PG, I kept waiting to see what is probably the greatest war poem of all time, “Dulce et Decorum Est” by Willfred Owen, also a British soldier in the trenches of World War 1.

    The final 8 lines of only 28 in all, are these:


    If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
    Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
    Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
    Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,—
    My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
    To children ardent for some desperate glory,
    The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
    Pro patria mori.

    The Latin phrase is from the Roman poet Horace: “It is sweet and honorable (or fitting) to die for one’s country.”

    To see the entire poem, visit https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/46560/dulce-et-decorum-est.

    • I prefer Heinlein’s version: “A soldier’s duty isn’t to die for their country but to make the other guy die for his.”

      If it can’t be avoided, make them pay in blood.
      C.F., Ukraine, 2022.

    • For me, it’s hard to choose the best of the war poems. Many of my favorites carry such strong emotions that personalize the author’s experience in wartime that they all strike me hard in different ways.

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