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A Poem for Armistice Day: 'In Flanders Fields'

In observance of Veterans Day, also known as Armistice Day, the following is a poem written in 1915 by a Canadian military doctor, Major John McCrae.

When the military chaplain was called away during the Second Battle of Ypres in the Flanders area of Belgium, Canadian doctor and artillery commander Major John McCrae was asked to conduct the burial service for his friend Lieutenant Alexis Helmer, who was killed in the World War I battle.

McCrae marked his friend's grave with a plain wooden cross and that evening wrote this poem, which was inspired by the poppies that were abundant on the battlefield.

"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.

--Major John McCrae

Evelyn Winnegar November 11, 2012 at 09:35 PM
Thank you for printing this. Brings back many memories of my childhood when this poem was well-known in schools. My sister remembers drawing pictures of poppies and coloring them for the remembrance. And I remember buying the little crepe paper poppies from a veteran, maybe on Memorial Day too.
Joan S. Dentler November 12, 2012 at 03:10 AM
Thank you Evelyn.....yes, I remember those crepe poppies---and until you mentioned it, I never put it together. Such a lovely poem and an artful tribute to this special day.

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