In Flanders Fields

Britain is a largely secular culture nowadays, but it still has its festivals and ‘holy’ days. Guy Fawkes Night is one of them, but the big one, the one that almost feels sacred, is November 11th. It’s part of a twin commemoration of those fallen in defence of their country, Armistice Day and Remembrance Sunday on the nearest Sunday to the 11th, and that’s when the poppies bloom again, appearing throughout the month and culminating in moments of silence in which we’re invited to remember the victims of war and those who fight in it.

In 1915, a Canadian military physician called John McRae wrote the liturgy for Armistice Day, in the form of his poem In Flanders Fields, and while acts of remembrance now seem to attract all sorts of strange controversy (Are newsreaders wearing poppies too early? Are people emotionally blackmailed into buying them? Are they a nationalist symbol? Does the white poppy divert funds from the work of the British Legion or is it a necessary alternative?), when it comes down to it McRae’s poem seems to be enough, and all the words in world seem empty next to the communal silence as the clocks turn to eleven…

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.


One thought on “In Flanders Fields

  1. Pingback: St. Paul’s, The Protests And Occupy Taunton « Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth

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