Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Antidote for "In Flanders Fields"


He’s gone, and all our plans
Are useless indeed.
We’ll walk no more on Cotswolds
Where the sheep feed
Quietly and take no heed.
His body that was so quick
Is not as you
Knew it, on Severn River
Under the blue
Driving our small boat through.
You would not know him now …
But still he died
Nobly, so cover him over
With violets of pride
Purple from Severn side.
Cover him, cover him soon!
And with thick-set
Masses of memoried flowers—
Hide that red wet
Thing I must somehow forget.
By Ivor Gurney in 1920, who was gassed during WW1  and lived out his days in an asylum.

Contrast that now with the poem ""In Flanders Fields", often cited for its patriotism and devotion to an unnamed cause, that that cause be continued only on the merit that a predecessor had died for it.
"In Flanders Fields" was written in 1915, just as the war had started, before the human wave attacks, before the bayonet and machine gun, before the gas, before the bloody bloody trenches and stalemate on the Western front.
It was written well before the 9 million would die.

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

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