Armistice Day: MCMXIV by Philip Larkin

Today, 11/11/11, at 11am, most of the world will pause for two minutes to remember the ceasefire on the Western Front in 1918. Last year, I featured what could be considered as one of the best-loved and most moving war … Continue reading

Lest we forget: In Flanders Field

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.

I can vividly recall my English teacher’s passionate rendition of this; so passionate, that she accidentally kicked off her shoe mid-recital, so that it flew to the back wall and landed with a mood-killing “thud” (luckily, no teenagers were knocked out in this incident).

Nevertheless, she achieved what she set out to achieve: I remember this poem. It was written by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae on 3rd May 1915, one day after he witnessed the death of his buddy, Lieutenant Alexis Helmer.

Simplistic, eerie and beautifully written, In Flanders Fields really needs no explanation. Today, the final stanza, the turning point in the poem, stands out the most: “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.” The poem does not linger too long on the remembrance of the dead, but looks to the future, while reminding us of the constant: the blowing poppies, life, and the freedom they fought to protect.

Lest we forget.