Monday, May 29, 2006

Memorial Day

John McCrae lived from 1872 to 1918. A Canadian physician, he fought on the Western Front in 1914 at the beginning of the First World War. Soon he was transferred to the medical corps and assigned to a hospital in France. He died of pneumonia while on active duty in 1918. He is perhaps most remembered for his poem about the famous poppies concurrent with the soldiers who had died. He wrote his famous poem In Flanders Fields the day after presiding at the funeral of a friend and former student. His poem is now a memorial to all Veterans. (courtesy, Sarah Lane)
In Flanders Fields - John McCrae

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.
The torch, ours to hold it high? If we break faith with them who die, shall they not sleep? Do they sleep? Have we kept faith with they who gave their lives? Are we grateful? Do we laud their cause? Since Vietnam, do we share their cause? Are we sure of our own cause? Are we sure even of who we are as a people? Are we still "a people"? After transferring from Oxford to Cambridge, C.S. Lewis caricatured himself as a dinosaur, the last of the "Old Western Men." Surely an exaggeration. Surely?

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