Milestones: In Flanders Fields

May 3, 1915, Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, soldier, surgeon, artist, and poet, writes “In Flanders Fields.”

This poem is read on Remembrance Day November 11th. Join me in reciting “In Flanders Fields.”

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,
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.
John McCrae in uniform circa 1914

Published by Rebecca Budd

Lifestyle Blogger, Visual Storyteller, Podcaster, Traveler and Life-long Learner

14 thoughts on “Milestones: In Flanders Fields

  1. This is, of course, beautifully written, and you have recited this with feeling and love, thank you! My eyes fill with tears when I hear or read this poem. “We are the dead!” I remember this poem from a very early age, We studied this in our “Grade School”, in the little one room school house on the prairie. At one time, I knew it by memory!! Thank you for posting! ! !

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I try to envision of the moment that John McCrae wrote the poem. I know that on May 2, 1915, his friend, Lieutenant Alexis Helmer, was killed in action and buried in a makeshift grave. Wild poppies were already beginning to bloom between the crosses marking the many graves. That was the moment inspired him to write In Flanders Fields. Did he sit at a desk to write or did he walk through Flanders Field with a notebook in hand? How did the words come to him? Thomas Gray says it best about poetry, “Poetry is thoughts that breathe, and words that burn.”

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  2. A very moving recitation of “In Flanders Fields.” I am struck by the dilemma posed by the last stanza. If we stop the fighting to avoid more loss of life, do we break faith with those who already died, as if their sacrifice had been in vain?

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    1. A very insightful point, Liz. “In Flanders Fields” is the most quoted poem from WWI Indeed, it was used to recruit soldiers and raise money selling war bonds. But I have never thought that was what John McCrae meant. For me, the words “Take up our quarrel with the foe” is about fighting for righteousness, for honesty, for truth and justice. The “foe” is whatever creates inequities and despair and leads away from freedom. To honour the dead, is to seek positive outcomes for all, which is an enormous responsibility.

      I am reminded by what John Adams wrote in a letter to his wife, Abigail:

      “Posterity! you will never know how much it cost the present generation to preserve your freedom! I hope you will make a good use of it.”

      The other thought that comes to mind is from Sun Tzu, The Art of War. The essence was that war should be avoided:

      ”Anger may in time change to gladness; vexation may be succeeded by content.
      But a kingdom that has once been destroyed can never come again into being; nor can the dead ever be brought back to life.”

      You would be interested to know that at medical school, John McCrae tutored other students to help pay his tuition. Two of these students were among the first female doctors in Ontario.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. If King Pyrrhus of Ancient Greece figured out a high toll on the winning a battle does not offset the rewards of success, and Sun Tzu of Ancient China agreed with him, it seems that we have not learned the lessons of history.

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    1. I remember this day as if it were yesterday. We were in the first stages of our COVID lockdown so the usual Remembrance services were dramatically different from previous years where we all gathered downtown at the Cenotaph. It was a cold cold day. Over the course of about 30 minutes, I had to redo the video several time because I would start to cry just as I started the last stanza. Poor Don – he was so cold holding the camera, but we prevailed and I finally made it through. I kept thinking of my Dad heading out to war at 18, and all of those young men that didn’t make it back. I think that Erich Maria Remarque, said it best in “All Quiet on the Western Front.”

      “It is very queer that the unhappiness of the world is so often brought on by small men.”

      I always enjoy our conversations!

      Liked by 2 people

  3. The choir I was in at the time sung this at Remembrance tide a few years ago: I can no longer remember who composed the version we sang – I see that there are lots of them. A moving experience, anyway.

    Liked by 3 people

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