Thursday, November 12, 2009

Veterans' Day -- a Day Late.

I'm sorry to admit that yesterday, while various friends and relatives were posting tributes to veterans past and present, I was complaining that the library wasn't open. (Although I did acknowledge veterans in my Facebook status...) So today by way of restitution I'm going to post two poems, the first one famous and the second one only a year old. But if I have my way it will be famous!

In Flanders Fields - by John McRae (of Guelph, ON)

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.

I memorized that one as a child, not because I had to, but because it called to me, somehow. And last year, to my astonishment and delight, my friend Kate penned this:

The Torch

You are the dead. Long years ago
you fought, and died, were laid below
the crosses, there in Flanders Field.
Ninety Novembers now have pealed
Church bells and speeches for the dead
by dwindling rank of comrades led,
to honor you - - John McCrae,
and all who stood in danger's way.

Your poem -- it haunts me now as when
I memorized first, at ten.
(So many children have). But I
-- I hear the larks sing in the sky
and shiver at the dead below
the crosses, laid in Flanders Field.

...And wonder at the final verse.
Would you have thought of us the worse?
Have we kept faith? Is our torch bright?
Or are we too ashamed to fight,
call evil false or good things true
like those young men who stood with you
in Flanders Field.

We are the living - you are the Dead,
not for you the poppies red,
blooming today for us below.
This ragged torch is burning low
but brave young men can still be found
hallowing some foreign ground
with earnest blood, while I at home
peck away at my short poem.
Lt. Col. John McCrae-
remember us, this November day.

No comments: