Poems

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 McCrae

A Short Biography of Dr. John McCrae

In May 1915, one of Dr. John McCrae's closest friends and comrades was killed in the trenches near Ypres, Belgium. He was buried in a humble grave with a simple wooden cross. Wild poppies bloomed between the crosses marking the many graves. The next day, unable to help his friend or any of the others who had died, Dr. McCrae gave them a voice through this poem.

On January 28, 1918, John McCrae succumbed to pneumonia and meningitis. He died not knowing the outcome of the war, but with a full understanding of the cost of it. Before he died, Dr. McCrae had the satisfaction of knowing that his poem had been a success. Soon after its publication, it became the most popular poem on the First World War. It was translated into many languages and used on billboards advertising the sale of first Victory Loan Bonds in Canada in 1917.

In part because of the poem's popularity, the poppy was adopted as the Flower of Remembrance. The symbolic poppy and John McCrae's poems are still linked, and the voices of those who have died in war continue to be heard each Remembrance Day.

In Flanders Fields Lyrics

A musical version of In Flanders Fields was written in honour of and as tribute to the men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces who in 1945 came to liberate the people of Holland.

For the Fallen

With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,
England mourns for her dead across the sea.
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit,
Fallen in the cause of the free.
Solemn the drums thrill; Death august and royal
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres,
There is music in the midst of desolation
And a glory that shines upon our tears.
They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted;
They fell with their faces to the foe.
They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England's foam.
But where our desires are and our hopes profound,
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known
As the stars are known to the Night;
As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain;
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end, they remain.

- Laurence Binyon - September 1914

High Flight

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds - and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of - wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there,
I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air...
Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I've topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or even eagle flew -
And, while with silent lifting mind I've trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand and touched the face of God.

- Officer John G. Magee, Jr. - November, 1941

A Short Biography of John Gillespie Magee, Jr.

John Gillespie Magee, Jr. was born in 1922 in Shanghai, China. In October 1940, at age 18, John Magee Jr. went to Canada and enrolled in the Royal Canadian Air Force. After his flight training, he went to England as a commissioned pilot officer. In the course of his training in the Spitfire aircraft, he was assigned to make a high altitude flight "into the stratosphere." On landing, he went to his quarters and there wrote his now famous High Flight sonnet on the back of a letter to his mother.

Why Wear a Poppy

"Please wear a poppy," the lady said,
And held one forth, but I shook my head.
Then I stopped and watched as she offered them there,
And her face was old and lined with care;

But beneath the scars the years had made
There remained a smile that refused to fade.
A boy came whistling down the street,
Bouncing along on care-free feet.

His smile was full of joy and fun,
"Lady," said he, "may I have one?"
When she'd pinned it on, he turned to say;
"Why do we wear a poppy today?"

The lady smiled in her wistful way
And answered; "This is Remembrance Day.
And the poppy there is a symbol for
The gallant men who died in war.

And because they did, you and I are free -
That's why we wear a poppy, you see.
I had a boy about your size,
With golden hair and big blue eyes.

He loved to play and jump and shout,
Free as a bird, he would race about.
As the years went by, he learned and grew,
And became a man - as you will, too.

He was fine and strong, with a boyish smile,
But he'd seemed with us such a little while
When war broke out and he went away.
I still remember his face that day.

When he smiled at me and said, 'Goodbye,
I'll be back soon, Mum, please don't cry.'
But the war went on and he had to stay,
And all I could do was wait and pray.

His letters told of the awful fight
(I can see it still in my dreams at night),
With the tanks and guns and cruel barbed wire,
And the mines and bullets, the bombs and fire.

Till at last, at last, the war was won -
And that's why we wear a poppy, son."
The small boy turned as if to go,
Then said, "Thanks, lady, I'm glad to know.
That sure did sound like an awful fight
But your son - did he come back all right?"
A tear rolled down each faded cheek;
She shook her head, but didn't speak
I slunk away in a sort of shame,
And if you were me, you'd have done the same:

For our thanks, in giving, if oft delayed,
Though our freedom was bought - and thousands paid!
And so, when we see a poppy worn,
Let us reflect on the burden borne
By those who gave their very all
When asked to answer their country's call
That we at home in peace might live.
Then wear a poppy! Remember - and Give!

- Don Crawford

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