With it being Memorial Day Holiday Weekend I was reminded of the poem “In Flanders Fields”.
The photo shown of oil on canvas upper left is “In Flanders Field-Where Soldiers Sleep and Poppies Grow (Coquelicots), Poppies by artist Robert Vonnoh, American Impressionist painter. Attribution: Robert Vonnoh [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons. The oil on canvas was painted in 1890. Although this was considered Vonnoh’s most ambitious work, garnering great acclaim at fairs and exhibits, the painting never sold. “It was not until 1919 when it was purchased directly by Joseph G. Butler, founder of The Butler Institute of American Art that In Flanders Field would find a permanent home. The painting is part of the permanent collection to this day in Youngstown, Ohio.”
The poem was written a hundred years ago in December 1915, in England’s Punch magazine. Recently, on April 30, 2015 the Canada Post announced it “will issue a stamp to mark the 100th anniversary of the poignant poem that made the poppy an international symbol of wartime sacrifices and has been recited in ceremonies for a century.”
Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae is best known for writing the famous war memorial poem “In Flanders Fields” during World War I. He was a Canadian poet, physician, author, artist and soldier, and a surgeon during the Second Battle of Ypres, in Belgium. McCrae died of pneumonia near the end of the war. In reading about him, it said that as the brigade doctor, John McCrae was asked to conduct the burial service for Alexis because the chaplain had been called away somewhere else on duty that evening. “The poem was written as he sat upon the back of a medical field ambulance near an advance dressing post at Essex Farm, just north of Ypres.” The poppy, which was a central feature of the poem, grew in great numbers in the spoiled earth of the battlefields and cemeteries of Flanders.
Attribution for photo shown on right: By Tijl Vercaemer from Gent, Flanders #Belgium) (In Flanders Fields the poppies blow (3/3#) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
It seemed fitting to close today’s blog post with the poem.
‘In Flanders Fields‘
by John McCrae, May 3, 1915
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.