Thursday, November 11, 2010

"Veterans Day"

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.

By: Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1918)
Canadian Army


poetreader said...

Thank you, Sid,
I'm a pacifist (pretty much) and have trouble imagining any war I could approve of.
However, I am filled with admiration for the brave men who have laid their lives on the line (and so many have died) for what they have believed to be right.
Row after row of stones to mark where they lie - young men who never did return home. What tragedy! It should never have been, but honor belongs by right to those who made such an offering, and to those who made the same offer and yet survived.


Zaek said...

I have mixed feelings about the poem, as I do about WWI monuments. People who lay down their lives for great causes that they believe in deeply should be honored. But World War I was basically a resource war that could and should have been avoided, and which benefited no one but the ruling and mercantile classes of the countries that engaged in it (and not even all of them), at immense human cost. Contrary to the sentiment expressed by the poet, I would NOT follow those soldiers into the grave for such a reason.

By contrast, I once had supper with an old guy who had fought in WWII. Out of all his company, he was the only soldier who knew or cared what fascism was and why he wanted to beat it. That, to my mind, is an example of someone who had a reason to fight.

poetreader said...

Respectfully, Zaek, I think that's a little too doctrinaire. No war is a good thing. It's even hard to justify WWII fully as there were atrocities on both sides, and WWI? Well it was one of the truly stupid wars of history, and I've often argued that the way it was concluded was the princiapl cause for WWII.

All that said, the fields are full of young men (on both sides of all conflicts) who believed their government was doing the right thing, and who offered their lives in its service. I may (and do) believe their trust was misplaced, but I can't help but admire their willingness to give everything. Do I have the stamina to lay my life down for what I believe in? I can only hope so.

As for the poem:
The first stanza is magnificent, what an expression of the pathos of the loss of young lives - what a waste!
Obviously Dr. McCrae intended the second as a call to arms against the Germans, but it was actually the "negotiators" at Versailles that broke faith with those buried boys, by making it inevitable that the quarrel would soon be resumed in yet worse form. The settlement they died for could have been the start of a more peaceful era, but the desire to crush rather than to win over the foe betrayed them and dishonored them. Mr. Wilson and his European Allies guaranteed (if it were possible - and perhaps it was) that they would not rest, but that Europe would be haunted by their ghosts.