Monday, May 31, 2004

115 In Flanders Field

Memorial Day services in my home town were held on the “campus,” a lovely green space where there had been a college (Rock River Seminary, then Mt. Morris College) for nearly a century, 1839-1931. When I was a little girl I remember the veterans shooting rifles, the band playing, and a senior in high school reciting “In Flanders Field.”
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, who wrote “In Flanders Field,” perhaps the most famous poem about war ever written at the site of a terrible battle in 1915, died in 1918 of pneumonia in France. He was a surgeon and Lieutenant Colonel from Ontario, Canada, and had written other poems, many of them about death, or the dead speaking from the grave. In addition to serving in World War I where he saw terrible carnage, he had also served in the Boer War in South Africa. The following excerpt from a memorial essay about his character was written by a friend, Sir Andrew Macphail and is included in the digitized book of poems, “In Flanders Field” http://toosvanholstein.nl/greatwar/books/inflandersfields/inflandersfields.pdf The passage from Matthew 25 is one of my favorites and most clearly summarizes the Christian life.

"To his own students John McCrae once quoted the legend from a picture, to him “the most suggestive picture in the world:” What I spent I had; what I saved I lost; what I gave I have--and he added: “It will be in your power every day to store up for yourselves treasures that will come back to you in the consciousness of duty well done, of kind acts performed, things that having given away freely you yet possess. It has often seemed to me that when in the Judgement those surprised faces look up and say, Lord, when saw we Thee hungry and fed Thee; or thirsty and gave Thee drink; a stranger, and took Thee in; naked and clothed Thee; and there meets them that warrant-royal of all charity, Insasmuch as ye did it unto one of the least of these, ye have done it unto Me, there will be amongst those awed ones many a practitioner."

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