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November 11, 2016

The Blood Red Beauties of Flanders Fields: John Alexander McCrae and Poppies.

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McCrae in 1912

Today, November 11, America's Veterans Day, honors all U.S. military veterans. However, it was originally only a day set aside by the participating combatant countries to honor the dead of World War I, or The Great War, and to celebrate the Armistice with Germany which had commenced November 11, 1918 at 11:00 am. As Remembrance Day, also called Poppy Day, the Commonwealth nations today still honor military veterans who died in the line of duty.

The name Poppy Day, and the holiday's moving symbolism you see in British homes and streets today and on Remembrance Sunday (always the preceding Sunday to the 11th) derive solely from a famous three-stanza poem by Lt. John Alexander McCrae, a Canadian soldier and physician, believed to be written on May 3, 1915. Early in the war, and in his forties, McCrae served as a front-line surgeon, including in the Second Battle of Ypres (April 21-May 25, 1915).

The poem first appeared in Punch in December of 1915, while McCrae was still alive. In early 1918, he died of pneumonia while still commanding a Canadian military hospital in northern France.


In Flanders Fields

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.

--John Alexander McCrae (1872–1918) Poet, physician, Lieutenant Colonel of the Canadian Expeditionary Force.


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Posted by JD Hull at November 11, 2016 03:42 PM

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