No One Forgets

It is the 100th Anniversary of the poem “In Flanders Fields” composed by John McCrae. It is a poem many of us learned by heart when we were in school. If you are like me, at the time we recited this ode to those who fought and fell, it did not necessarily touch us. We did not understand the significance. It touches me now. And I deeply feel its significance.

Dr. McCrae is said to have written and abandoned the poem before he was finally convinced to submit it for publication. It was published in Punch, a London based magazine on December 8, 1915.

McCrae’s poem is recognized as providing us with the poppy that we wear proudly each November in honour of Remembrance Day. I no longer know the poem written in the form of a *rondeau off by heart. But when I reread the poem it brings to the fore the essence of Remembrance Day. I particularly find the second verse haunting and discomforting. McCrae truly “hits home” in his description of those who were once alive, now dead:

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.

An explanation (in of all places, Wikipedia, which I should give more respect as I use it all the time) of the poem and McCrae’s “preoccupation with death and how it stands as the transition between the struggle of life and the peace that follows” comforts me to an extent. Apparently McCrae’s poem not only “speaks of …sacrifice”, it also serves as a “command to the living to press on.”

And so I shall “press on”, having been given that gift by all those who have served and continue to serve our country. I am much encouraged that the youth of today understands the sacrifices made for our freedom that I perhaps was oblivious to when I was younger. Proving this point is as easy as going to the website and perusing the many winners in their poster, poem, and essay contests commemorating the service and sacrifice of our men and women in uniform.

I was made aware of one such poem by a story in the local daily. A student from Windsor earned national recognition from the Royal Canadian Legion for her poem called “The Soil at Vimy Ridge”. Timely too, as the Battle will be commemorating its 100th Anniversary next year. As McCrae’s poppies were the spectators of the crosses row on row, the soil in Ines Fielder’s poem was a participant. The poem is written from the perspective of the soil upon which the battle was fought. Here is the last verse in her poem:

I am the soil at Vimy Ridge.
A witness to the war,
Some may say they’ve seen it all
But I have seen much more.

The soil sees all, feels all, and remembers all. The following verse is the beating soul of the poem:
I’ve felt the boots of twenty thousand
March towards their slaughter,
Sacrificing everything for
Wives and sons and daughters.

Pausing for a few moments on the 11th day of the 11th month at 11:00 a.m. is not enough. I beseech you to go to this website and read the stories and the poems and enjoy the winning posters. They will give you a new perspective and a keen sense of the way our youth is carrying on “in remembrance.” They are not forgetting.

*a rondeau is “a short poem of fixed form, consisting of 13 or 10 lines on two rhymes and having the opening words or phrase used in two place as an unrhymed refrain” {p. 1243 of The Random House Dictionary of the English Language}. I hope this clears it up for you. It is still murky as mud to me.

Published in: on November 11, 2015 at 11:26 am  Comments (2)  

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Reading, learning, and remembering about the sacrifices that were made for us is so important, and that’s why I absolutely love the commercial that is out on TV right now. I can’t remember who does it, but there is a little girl who decides to learn all about the meaning of the poppy, and then she gets in touch with someone who lives near Flanders Fields and has them send her a real poppy. She then approaches a veteran giving out poppies, and she gives him the real poppy. I find it incredibly moving! Both my boys, in different years, memorized and read “In Flanders Fields” at our local legion on Remembrance Day, and they were very proud moments for me and brought back memories of my grandpa who served in WWII but luckily came home.

  2. As I am watching the national ceremony in Ottawa on the CBC and reading your post, I am reminded of course the of sacrifice of those who lost their lives for freedom but also all the work that is necessary going forward to try and change our relationship with the veterans who are living. We owe them!

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