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Some Thoughts on John McCrae and In Flanders Fields

Posted by sorev on 11/11/2009

One of the most famous poems in all of Canada is In Flanders Fields by the late Lt.-Col. John McCrae.  For those who are not aware, In Flanders Fields was inspired by the death of the young Lieutenant Alexis Hannum Helmer.  According to the official account held in Canadian archives, Lt. Helmer and his colleague Lt. Hague were shredded into pieces by a direct hit from a German artillery shell during the second battle of Ypres on the Second of May, 1915.  The remains of the two young men were collected by a close friend of Lt. Helmer, a one Major John McCrae.  When Major McCrae (later Lt.-Col. McCrae) went to retrieve the remains of the young Lieutenants, he could only find parts of their bodies.  What remained of the two young men was brought back to a place of burial in blood soaked blankets.  The next day, he held a funeral service for his former friend and it is understood that shortly thereafter, he took some time to write out a poem on the steps of an ambulance.  That poem eventually became In Flanders Fields.

Here is the last stanza of 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.

Essentially what this poem is saying is that Canadians need to hang in there and continue to fight the feud between the parasitic aristocrats, money changers, and exploiters in Europe.  Never mind the fact that working people from Canada have no reason to quarrel with German or Austrian working people, the Empire of which we were a constituent part represents all that is good and holy and we must defend it to the point where our friends are shredded into pieces by artillery shells fired by people who are most likely of similar circumstances to the Canadians they were firing upon.

Unfortunately, most Canadians did not seem to share the view that we’re espousing today, and it is of little consequence to us now as the past has already happened.

The good news in all of this is that we do not have to continue to repeat the mistakes of the past.  We can break faith with the mistakes of our ancestors and choose to stop fighting to make the world safe for exploitation by the parasites who own international banking and manufacturing firms.

In closing, we present you with a more appropriate poem for a day of Remembrance.

Dulce Et Decorum Est Pro patria mori

By Wilfred Owen

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of disappointed shells that dropped behind.

GAS! Gas! Quick, boys!– An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And floundering like a man in fire or lime.–
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,–
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.


One Response to “Some Thoughts on John McCrae and In Flanders Fields”

  1. worldwar1letters said

    Readers may also be interested in the writings home from the front of US Sgt. Sam Avery. Fascinating eyewitness history from the hot sands along the Rio Grande to the cold mud along the Meuse.

    This blog is an adventure long in the making for me in honor of my own family hero. Letters are posted on the same day they were written from the trenches 91 years ago.

    Today I found myself staring at my watch counting down the minutes to 1100 hrs.

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