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.
Canadian Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, a physician originally from the lovely town of Guelph, Ontario where I have spent many a lazy weekend afternoon, originally wrote his epic poem “In Flanders Field” during WWI after burying another comrade who had fallen in the line of duty on May 3, 1915.
That soldier and friend was Canadian soldier Lieutenant Alexis Hannum Helmer, who died in the Second Battle of Ypres fought from April 21 – May 25, 1915 for control of the strategic Flemish town of Ypres in western Belgium.
It is a haunting and beautiful poem that certainly stirs up the emotions – especially when you realize that it is the dead talking to you. It’s powerful.
Its mention of poppies helped lead the flower to become one of the most recognized memorial icons ever.
The poem is usually recalled on this date, November 11 of ever year, where it is a call to remember those who gave up their life in the line of duty in the armed forces. It is a date important to all those countries within the Commonwealth, but I hear that other countries also pay respects on Remembrance Day.
Now… I am also aware that there are TWO versions of this poem… one where the first line of the first stanza ends with ‘blow’ and another where it ends with ‘grow’.
While it is true that the earliest version might indeed have had the word ‘grow’ in it back in 1915 when it was first penned, but when the magazine Punch requested to print it, they asked McCrae if they might change that word to ‘blow’ – simply because the writer had already used ‘grow’ on the second last line of the poem.
As a writer, I can understand the need to use a different word – unless said repetition of a word was important to the overall mood of the article. In this case, it is not. The differentiation between ‘blow’ and ‘grow’ creates a better over-all poem.
Would you believe that there are some people here in Canada who take great offense at the changed word?
While our previous Canadian $10 bill – first seen between 2001 – 2013 – proudly portrayed the poem on the reverse of our then paper (now plastic) money, it uses the different words in its version. And for that, the Royal Canadian Mint took a lot of flak.
Yeesh. Grow up.
Just honor those who fell in the line of duty and be glad you have $10 in your pocket.
In case you are wondering just WHY it seems that there are more things about World War I on TV and in the news – just note that it’s the 100th Anniversary of the start of World War I, then called The Great War… or the war to end all wars.
They sure got that wrong.
For all of the people who gave their life in the line of duty – thank-you.