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Inscription of the complete poem in a bronze "book" at the John McCrae memorial at his birthplace in Guelph, Ontario, Canada; taken on Remembrance Day 2009.


"In Flanders Fields" is one of the most famous poems written during World War I, created in the form of a French rondeau. It has been called "the most popular poem" produced during that period.[1] Canadian physician and Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae wrote it on 3 May 1915 (see 1915 in poetry), after he witnessed the death of his friend, Lieutenant Alexis Helmer, 22 years old, the day before. The poem was first published on 8 December of that year in the London-based magazine Punch.

Contents

Historical context

The poppies referred to in the poem grew in profusion in Flanders in the spoiled earth of the battlefields and cemeteries where war casualties were buried and thus became a symbol of Remembrance Day. The poem is part of Remembrance Day solemnities in Allied countries which contributed troops to World War I, particularly in countries of the British Empire that did so.

The poem "In Flanders Fields" was written after John McCrae witnessed the death, and presided over the funeral, of a friend, Lt. Alexis Helmer. By most accounts it was written in his notebook [2] and later rejected by McCrae. Ripped out of his notebook, it was rescued by a fellow officer, Francis Alexander Scrimger, and later published in Punch magazine. However, this story is rejected by the editor at the time:

"A legend has already grown up around the publication of "In Flanders Fields" in Punch. The truth is, 'that the poem was offered in the usual way and accepted; that is all.' The usual way of offering a piece to an editor is to put it in an envelope with a postage stamp outside to carry it there, and a stamp inside to carry it back. Nothing else helps."[3]

Poem

an autograph copy

The title piece of In Flanders Fields and Other Poems, 1919, was printed as:[3]

In Flanders fields the poppies grow
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.

Status

Wreaths of artificial poppies used as a symbol of remembrance

In 1915 US professor Moina Michael inspired by the poem published a poem of her own in response, called We Shall Keep the Faith.[4] In tribute to the opening lines of McCrae's poem — "In Flanders fields the poppies blow / Between the crosses row on row," — Michael vowed to always wear a red poppy as a symbol of remembrance for those who served in the war.[5]

The poem has achieved near-mythical status in contemporary Canada and is one of the nation's most prominent symbols. Most Remembrance Day ceremonies will feature a reading of the poem in some form (it is also sung a cappella in some places), and most Canadian school children memorize the verse. The poem is part of Remembrance Day ceremonies in the United Kingdom, where it holds as one of the nation's best-loved, and is occasionally featured in Memorial Day ceremonies in the United States.

A portion of the poem is now printed on Canadian $10 notes, where it spawned a rumour that the poem had been misprinted, resulting from popular confusion between the first line's "blow" and the penultimate line's "grow."

Schools in Guelph (McCrae's birthplace) once taught that "the poppies grow" could refer to spreading blood stains on the shallow graves.[citation needed]

The use of "grow" in the first line appears in a handwritten and autographed copy for the 1919 edition of McCrae's poems; the editor, Andrew Macphail, notes in the caption, "This was probably written from memory as "grow" is used in place of "blow" in the first line." [3]

Criticisms

Critic Paul Fussell, in The Great War and Modern Memory, pointed out the sharp distinctions between the pastoral, sacrificial tone of the poem's first nine lines and the "recruiting-poster rhetoric" of the poem's third stanza; Fussell said the poem, appearing in 1915, would serve to denigrate any negotiated peace which would end the war, and called these lines "a propaganda argument," saying "words like vicious and stupid would not seem to go too far."[6] Modern public readings of the poem, however, stress the debt to the dead and the necessity to honour their memory in ceremonies often focusing on the sacrifice and sorrow of war.

Other versions

Illustrated page by Ernest Clegg

An illustrated edition of the poem was published in 1921, with a preface by William Thomas Manning.[7]

An official adaptation into French, used by the Canadian government in Remembrance Day ceremonies, was written by Jean Pariseau and is entitled Au champ d'honneur.

In popular culture

Roll of Honour of Clan McCrae's dead of World War I at Eilean Donan castle. In Flanders Fields features prominently.

An episode of The Simpsons called "When Flanders Failed" (#38–3) is an implicit reference to this poem. In the audio commentary to this episode which was recorded in 2003 Matt Groening, Al Jean, Mike Reiss, Jon Vitti and Jim Reardon talk about writer Jeff Martin who came up with this "World War I reference which no one ever gets".

The song "We Are the Lost" by the group Libera paraphrases this poem along with For the Fallen, sung as a choral hymn. The poem is referenced by Mort Shuman in his translation of the song "Marieke" by Jacques Brel as well as by Siouxsie and the Banshees in "Poppy Day" from their second LP "Join Hands". The song was adapted as the song "Flanders Fields" by The Escalators on their 1983 album "Moving Staircases" and also Big Head Todd and the Monsters on their 1989 debut album "Another Mayberry". The Guess Who parody the song in Friends of Mine.

In the TV special What Have We Learned, Charlie Brown?, Linus recites the poem while standing in front of the remnants of a battlefield in Ypres, including the British aid station where McCrae was inspired to write the poem.

The poem is referenced in the film Mr. Holland's Opus and Herman Wouk's novel City Boy.

The line "To you from failing hands we throw The torch; be yours to hold it high" is written on the wall of the Montreal Canadiens' dressing room. It is also inscribed upon the base of the flagpole at the American Cemetery, Madingley, Cambridge UK.

"The Piper" written by the fictional Walter Blythe in L. M. Montgomery's Rilla of Ingleside is a tribute to In Flanders Field in content and form as well as Walter's Canadian nationality.

In an Episode of Marcus Welby, MD a broken-down director has an unfinished script entitled "Flanders' Field". It was unfinished because during the making of this anti-war film, Pearl Harbor was attacked. Of course, a young film student helps the director (while Dr. Welby heals him physically) complete the film to accolades.

Notes

  1. ^ Paul Fussell, The Great War and Modern Memory, Oxford University Press, 2000, p. 248.
  2. ^ Arlingtoncemetery.net
  3. ^ a b c Macphail, Andrew (1919). "John McCrae: An essay in character". In Flanders Fields and Other Poems. 
  4. ^ "Moina Michael". Digital Library of Georgia/University of Georgia. http://georgiainfo.galileo.usg.edu/mmichael.htm. Retrieved 2009-02-18. 
  5. ^ "Where did the idea to sell poppies come from?". BBC News. 10 November 2006. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/6133312.stm. Retrieved 2009-02-18. 
  6. ^ Fussell, pp. 249-250.
  7. ^ McCrae, John (1921). In Flanders Fields. William Thomas Manning, Ernest Clegg (illustrations) (limited edition ed.). William Edwin Rudge. 

External links

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[[File:|thumb|Inscription of the complete poem in a bronze "book" at the John McCrae memorial at his birthplace in Guelph, Ontario, Canada; taken on Remembrance Day 2009.]] "In Flanders Fields" is one of the most notable poems written during World War I, created in the form of a French rondeau. It has been called "the most popular poem" produced during that period.[1] Canadian physician and Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae wrote it on 3 May 1915 (see 1915 in poetry), after he witnessed the death of his friend, Lieutenant Alexis Helmer, 22 years old, the day before. The poem was first published on 8 December of that year in the London-based magazine Punch.

Contents

Historical context

The poppies referred to in the poem grew in profusion in Flanders in the disturbed earth of the battlefields and cemeteries where war casualties were buried[2] and thus became a symbol of Remembrance Day. The poem is often part of Remembrance Day solemnities in Allied countries which contributed troops to World War I, particularly in countries of the British Empire that did so.

The poem "In Flanders Fields" was written after John McCrae witnessed the death, and presided over the funeral, of a friend, Lt. Alexis Helmer. By most accounts it was written in his notebook[3] and later rejected by McCrae. Ripped out of his notebook, it was rescued by a fellow officer, Francis Alexander Scrimger, and later published in Punch magazine. However, this story is rejected by the editor at the time:
"A legend has already grown up around the publication of "In Flanders Fields" in Punch. The truth is, 'that the poem was offered in the usual way and accepted; that is all.' The usual way of offering a piece to an editor is to put it in an envelope with a postage stamp outside to carry it there, and a stamp inside to carry it back. Nothing else helps."[4]

Poem

The first chapter of In Flanders Fields and Other Poems (a 1919 collection of poems by John McCrae) gives the text of the poem as follows:

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.

An autograph copy of the poem (reproduced at the start of this same book) uses grow (instead of blow) in the first line. The book includes a note seeking to explain the discrepancy by saying "This was probably written from memory".

Status

[[File:|thumb|right|Wreaths of artificial poppies used as a symbol of remembrance]] In 1918 US professor Moina Michael, inspired by the poem, published a poem of her own in response, called We Shall Keep the Faith.[5] In tribute to the opening lines of McCrae's poem — "In Flanders fields the poppies blow / Between the crosses row on row," — Michael vowed to always wear a red poppy as a symbol of remembrance for those who served in the war.[6]

The poem has achieved near-mythical status in contemporary Canada and is one of the nation's most prominent symbols. Most Remembrance Day ceremonies will feature a reading of the poem in some form (it is also sung a cappella in some places), and some Canadian school children memorize the verse. The poem is part of Remembrance Day ceremonies in the United Kingdom, where it holds as one of the nation's best-loved, and is occasionally featured in Memorial Day ceremonies in the United States.[citation needed]

A portion of the poem is now printed on Canadian $10 notes, where it spawned a rumour that the poem had been misprinted, resulting from popular confusion between the first line's "blow" and the penultimate line's "grow."[citation needed]

Schools in Guelph (McCrae's birthplace) once taught that "the poppies grow" could refer to spreading blood stains on the shallow graves.[citation needed]

The poem is printed in materials published by veterans' organizations in Canada[7] and the United States.[8]

The use of "grow" in the first line appears in a handwritten and autographed copy for the 1919 edition of McCrae's poems; the editor, Andrew Macphail, notes in the caption, "This was probably written from memory as "grow" is used in place of "blow" in the first line." [4] However, a tracing of a holograph copy on the letterhead of Captain Gilbert Tyndale-Lea M.C. now held by the Imperial War Museum claims that the original dates from 29 April 1915 and that it was given to the captain by the poet on that date. This clearly shows 'grow' in the first line and would change the publicly-held belief as to its date of composition and original first line.[9] This was certainly changed by the time he submitted it to Punch for publication in December of that year. The truth of whether McCrae originally wrote 'grow' or 'blow' in the first line will most likely never clearly be established.

Criticisms

Critic Paul Fussell, in The Great War and Modern Memory, pointed out the sharp distinctions between the pastoral, sacrificial tone of the poem's first nine lines and the "recruiting-poster rhetoric" of the poem's third stanza; Fussell said the poem, appearing in 1915, would serve to denigrate any negotiated peace which would end the war, and called these lines "a propaganda argument," saying "words like vicious and stupid would not seem to go too far."[10] Modern public readings of the poem, however, stress the debt to the dead and the necessity to honour their memory in ceremonies often focusing on the sacrifice and sorrow of war.[citation needed]

Other versions

File:In Flanders Fields (1921) page
Illustrated page by Ernest Clegg. Note that the first line ends with "grow".

An illustrated edition of the poem was published in 1921, with a preface by William Thomas Manning.[11]

An official adaptation into French, used by the Canadian government in Remembrance Day ceremonies, was written by Jean Pariseau and is entitled Au champ d'honneur.[citation needed]

In popular culture

[[File:|thumb|Roll of Honour of Clan McCrae's dead of World War I at Eilean Donan castle. In Flanders Fields features prominently.]] An episode of The Simpsons called "When Flanders Failed" (#38–3) is an implicit reference to this poem. In the audio commentary to this episode which was recorded in 2003 Matt Groening, Al Jean, Mike Reiss, Jon Vitti and Jim Reardon talk about writer Jeff Martin who came up with this "World War I reference which no one ever gets".

The song "We Are the Lost" by the group Libera paraphrases this poem along with For the Fallen, sung as a choral hymn. The poem is referenced by Mort Shuman in his translation of the song "Marieke" by Jacques Brel as well as by Siouxsie and the Banshees in "Poppy Day" from their second LP "Join Hands". The song was adapted as the song "Flanders Fields" by The Escalators on their 1983 album "Moving Staircases" and also Big Head Todd and the Monsters on their 1989 debut album "Another Mayberry". The Guess Who parody the song in Friends of Mine.

In the TV special What Have We Learned, Charlie Brown?, Linus recites the poem while standing in front of the remnants of a battlefield in Ypres, including the British aid station where McCrae was inspired to write the poem.

The poem is referenced in the film Mr. Holland's Opus and Herman Wouk's novel City Boy.

The line "To you from failing hands we throw The torch; be yours to hold it high" is written on the wall of the Montreal Canadiens' dressing room. It is also inscribed upon the base of the flagpole at the American Cemetery, Madingley, Cambridge UK.

"The Piper" written by the fictional Walter Blythe in L. M. Montgomery's Rilla of Ingleside is a tribute to In Flanders Field in content and form as well as Walter's Canadian nationality.

In an episode of Marcus Welby, M.D., a broken-down director has an unfinished script entitled "Flanders' Field". It was unfinished because during the writing of this anti-war film, Pearl Harbor was attacked. A young film student helps the director (while Welby heals him physically) complete the film to accolades.

Notes

  1. ^ Paul Fussell, The Great War and Modern Memory, Oxford University Press, 2000, p. 248.
  2. ^ The tendency of red poppies to grow on the fresh graves of soldiers in the fields of northern Europe has been noted at least from Napoleonic times. See The History and Poetry of "In Flanders Fields".
  3. ^ Arlingtoncemetery.net
  4. ^ a b Macphail, Andrew (1919). "John McCrae: An essay in character". In Flanders Fields and Other Poems. http://books.google.com/books?id=FXkoAQAAIAAJ. 
  5. ^ "Moina Michael". Digital Library of Georgia/University of Georgia. http://georgiainfo.galileo.usg.edu/mmichael.htm. Retrieved 2009-02-18. 
  6. ^ "Where did the idea to sell poppies come from?". BBC News. 10 November 2006. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/6133312.stm. Retrieved 2009-02-18. 
  7. ^ Teachers' Guide, Royal Canadian Legion, p. 20.
  8. ^ "Buddy Poppy", Veterans of Foreign Wars.
  9. ^ First World War Poetry Archive, http://www.oucs.ox.ac.uk/ww1lit/collections/item/1643 c.f. Imperial War Museum Record
  10. ^ Fussell, pp. 249-250.
  11. ^ McCrae, John (1921). In Flanders Fields. William Thomas Manning, Ernest Clegg (illustrations) (limited edition ed.). William Edwin Rudge. 

External links


Source material

Up to date as of January 22, 2010

From Wikisource

 
In Flanders Fields
by John McCrae
"In Flanders Fields" is one of the most famous poems about World War I, in the form of a French rondeau. It was written by Canadian physician John McCrae on May 3, 1915 and published later that year in Punch magazine. The poppies referred to in the poem grew in profusion in Flanders fields where war casualties had been buried and they thus became a symbol of Remembrance Day. The poem is part of Remembrance Day solemnities in the Allied countries which contributed troops to WWI, particularly in the countries of the then - British Empire.
— Excerpted from In Flanders Fields on Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow John McCrae Charles Ives In Flanders Fields - 1921.djvu|page=17

In Flanders Fields, autographed.
[page]

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.

Sheet music by Charles Ives

Self-published in 114 songs (1922)
PD-icon.svg This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1923.

The author died in 1918, so this work is also in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 80 years or less. This work may also be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.


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