In Flan­ders Fields John McCrae’s fa­mous poem re­mem­bered

Metro Canada (Calgary) - - SPECIAL REPORT: TOP 150 - Sean Plum­mer

It is the ar­guably the best (and best-known) war poem ever writ­ten, one many of us had to mem­o­rize in high school English class.

Guelph, On­tario, na­tive John McCrae’s In Flan­ders Fields has proven to be in­cred­i­bly pop­u­lar, if his­tor­i­cally con­tentious. (Some aca­demics have sug­gested it glo­ri­fies war, and it was used as po­lit­i­cal pro­pa­ganda, in­clud­ing by Canada’s Union­ist Party and PM Robert Bor­den, to drive en­list­ment and cap­ture votes.) But its ori­gins are ir­refutably sin­cere. McCrae, a physi­cian, wrote the poem after the death of his friend, Alexis Helmer, dur­ing the Bat­tle of Ypres in Flan­ders, Bel­gium.

Although ini­tially dis­sat­is­fied with it, McCrae al­lowed the poem’s pub­li­ca­tion and it be­came a touch­stone for both young sol­diers go­ing to war and their fam­i­lies. Canada Post hon­oured In Flan­ders Fields with a cen­te­nary stamp in 2015, and the Royal Mint has is­sued sev­eral quar­ters fea­tur­ing the poppy.

In­deed, the ubiq­uity of the poppy in Canada around Re­mem­brance Day is largely at­trib­uted to the ubiq­uity of In Flan­ders Fields, which is in­vari­ably read at me­mo­rial cer­e­monies.

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