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Armistice Day & In Flanders Fields poem

 
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georgia



Joined: 16 May 2006
Posts: 456
Location: california

PostPosted: Thu Nov 08, 2007 3:34 am    Post subject: Armistice Day & In Flanders Fields poem Reply with quote

In another thread in the forums, Gingerpale referred to the poem "In Flanders Fields", a poem she and I both love. I suddenly realized that this weekend is what we in the US call Armistice Day (11/11/11) or Veterans' Day, observing the end of The Great War (how could they imagine that it would come to be known as World War I...and would have to be numbered because II followed close behind). I believe the French call it Remembrance Day, and I'm sure many other countries observe it as well.

I remember being tremendously moved on my first trip to the UK when I saw so many memorials, stained glass church windows, monuments, etc., erected after WWI, aka The Great War or The War to End All Wars. The irony of that name is too sad to contemplate. They thought, surely, there would never be another one.

Anyway, I searched out the poem "In Flanders Fields" and offer it here. It's still beautiful and, tragically, still relevant...

IN FLANDERS FIELDS
by John McCrae, May 1915

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, thought poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
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Rainey



Joined: 29 Sep 2004
Posts: 2498
Location: Los Angeles, California, USA

PostPosted: Thu Nov 08, 2007 5:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I had to memorize that. I think it was 4th grade. Maybe 5th. I remember I was too young to have any idea where Flanders was.
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gingerpale



Joined: 23 Jan 2006
Posts: 1324

PostPosted: Thu Nov 08, 2007 6:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I tried to read this out loud to someone once and just couldn't get through it, even though I started over several times. I'm sure it's had the same effect on many many people.

Thank you for typing it out, Georgia.
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Griffin



Joined: 09 Jun 2006
Posts: 932
Location: England

PostPosted: Thu Nov 08, 2007 8:51 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I don't remember which poem it is by Wilfrid Owen, but it ends with the Latin phrase: Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori - Sweet and fitting it is to die for one's country, which he uses ironically.

It reminds me of Samuel Jonson's comment that 'patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel'. We have Poppy Day when people wear a poppy to remember the lost boys who were slaughtered in the trenches of the First World War. It might have been helpful if Bush and Blair had thought more of those boys, many of them 18 and some younger who lied about their age to go to a war they thought would win them glory and ended in mud, blood and bullets.

November is a good month to remember the lies politicians tell to get young men to die for a politician's promise/premise.

Mortuis Libamur


Let us drink to the dead.
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Griffin



Joined: 09 Jun 2006
Posts: 932
Location: England

PostPosted: Thu Nov 08, 2007 8:59 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Found it!

Wilfred Owen
Dulce Et Decorum Est

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.
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David



Joined: 30 Sep 2004
Posts: 1855
Location: Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

PostPosted: Thu Nov 08, 2007 3:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Griffin----thank you for this. I am deeply moved by Owen's words. Those WW 1 war poets really, really "got it".
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Debbie



Joined: 21 Feb 2005
Posts: 861
Location: Paris

PostPosted: Thu Nov 08, 2007 7:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It is called Remembrance Day here and in Australia.

Last ANZAC Day we visited Flanders Fields. That poem kept going through my head and looking over the landscape it was easy to become absorbed into the atmosphere.

Quite a beautiful place, but definately eerie and very sombre. An experience I will never forget.

One of the photographs I took that day was of an Australian Grave in a War Cemetery with the bright red Flanders Poppies growing in front. They look like blood spilt across the smooth white gravestone. I am scrapbooking some calendars for next year and will be using that one for April along with the poem.

In Australia we use rosemary as the button hole flower. Rosemary for remembrance. That is what I will wear this sunday.
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Rainey



Joined: 29 Sep 2004
Posts: 2498
Location: Los Angeles, California, USA

PostPosted: Thu Nov 08, 2007 7:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

David- I remember the white haired fellows who would dress in their WWI uniforms sporting their poppies in Vancouver.

Yes! If only we could remember from decade to decade that war only sets up the next one. There is no victory. Only the pause between them.


Griffin- How kind of you to give us a birthday present. I didn't know that poem but I doubt I'll ever be able to forget it now.

I offer this more recent thought:



"Children's Crusade" by Sting

Young men, soldiers, Nineteen Fourteen
Marching through countries they'd never seen
Virgins with rifles, a game of charades
All for a Children's Crusade

Pawns in the game are not victims of chance
Strewn on the fields of Belgium and France
Poppies for young men, death's bitter trade
All of those young lives betrayed

The children of England would never be slaves
They're trapped on the wire and dying in waves
The flower of England face down in the mud
And stained in the blood of a whole generation

Corpulent generals safe behind lines
History's lessons drowned in red wine
Poppies for young men, death's bitter trade
All of those young lives betrayed
All for a Children's Crusade

The children of England would never be slaves
They're trapped on the wire and dying in waves
The flower of England face down in the mud
And stained in the blood of a whole generation

Midnight in Soho, Nineteen Eighty-four
Fixing in doorways, opium slaves
Poppies for young men, such bitter trade
All of those young lives betrayed
All for a Children's Crusade
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emilyj



Joined: 26 Jun 2006
Posts: 184
Location: London, UK

PostPosted: Fri Nov 09, 2007 12:49 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Griffin, I remember learning Dulce Et Decorum Est by Wilfred Owen for year 12 English. I had to learn it by heart for my exams and pick it apart and put it back together again- in the process it lost quite a bit of its meaning and all of its resonance. Now, quite a few years later reading it again it gives me the same tingle I felt the first time I read it. Thank you for reminding me of it.
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Griffin



Joined: 09 Jun 2006
Posts: 932
Location: England

PostPosted: Fri Nov 09, 2007 8:31 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Emily,

That poem made me go out and buy a collection of his poems and those of Siegfried Sassoon's also. It felt like buying a record with a favourite track on it. The Anthem for Doomed Youth was for them, those boys who went looking for glory and discovered hell. It makes their poems all the more poignant and sad. Even sadder to think of all those young people who are sent to war on the whims of politicians who will not learn from the past.
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