Today is a solemn day in which we remember both the sacrifice and horrors soldiers have faced over Canada’s short history in face of war. We take the time to reflect on the eleventh day, of the eleventh month, on the eleventh hour, when World War One end nearly 90 years ago. The reflection that this was the “War to end all wars”, is especially heartbreaking considering how often soldiers all over the world have been sent to their death since. This is not a day to be patriotic, but rather hope that one day we will have no new soldiers to remember, and war will be a relic of the past.
Written by Canadian physician and Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, “In Flanders Field” was one of those poems I remember distinctly learning in school. Since I live in Quebec, I actually know it in both French and English, though it wasn’t until recently that I grew to appreciate it’s beauty and wishfullness. It’s a simple plea, but no less effective… the imagery especially is so strong. I remember writing an essay on it and another WW1 poem a few years ago, and both mentioned the lark. I did some research, and found that the lark is the bird that sings at the gates of heaven. It really evokes incredible sadness and power when the beautiful songs are drowned out by the sound of gunfire and death. And the final cry of the dead, that if we continue to fight, they will never be able to sleep below the red poppies… well, it brings tears to my eyes.
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.