In Flanders Fields
"In Flanders Fields" is a famous 1915 poem, written during the First World War by Canadian physician Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae. He was inspired to write it after presiding over the funeral of friend and fellow soldier who died during the Second Battle of Ypres in Flanders.
The poem was often used in wartime propaganda, such as in Canada, where the poem was said to have done more to "make this Dominion persevere in the duty of fighting for the world's ultimate peace than all the political speeches of the recent campaign". (This may be a reference to the Democratic peace theory, with Woodrow Wilson describing the war as a "war to end all war".)
The poem was a popular motivational tool in Great Britain, where it was used to encourage soldiers fighting against Germany, and in the United States where it was reprinted across the country. It was one of the most quoted works during the war, used in many places as part of campaigns to sell war bonds, during recruiting efforts and to criticize pacifists and those who sought to profit from the war.
The references to the red poppies that grew over the graves of fallen soldiers resulted in the remembrance poppy becoming one of the world's most recognized memorial symbols for soldiers who have died in conflict. The poem and poppy are prominent Remembrance Day symbols throughout the Commonwealth of Nations, particularly in Canada, where "In Flanders Fields" is one of the nation's best-known literary works. The poem is also widely known in the United States, where it is associated with Veterans Day and Memorial Day.
Despite its fame, "In Flanders Fields" is now often ignored by academics teaching and discussing Canadian literature, possibly in part because of speaking of glory and honour in a war that has since become synonymous with the futility of trench warfare and the slaughter produced by 20th-century weaponry, possibly in part because of criticisms such as the historian Paul Fussell criticizing the final lines as a "propaganda argument against a negotiated peace", possibly in part because patriotism in Western countries is now viewed as politically incorrect.
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 field.