Monday, 22 August 2011

Growing Wild

This is the picture prompt for the GBE2 (Group Blogging Experience) this week, with the theme ‘Growing Wild.’  You can find links to the other blogs here.

It was the topic rather than the picture which made me think of other flowers which grow wild.

In 1915, a Canadian doctor, John McCrae was in charge of a field hospital during the Second Battle of Ypres in Belgium, tending hundreds of soldiers who were wounded in the carnage of the Western Front.

One of his closest friends died and was buried in a makeshift grave with a simply wooden cross.  Wild poppies were already starting to bloom between the many crosses marking the graves, and this inspired McCrae to write what is probably the most famous poem of that dreadful war.

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 poppies still grow wild in that area of Belgium, but now in peaceful meadows where it’s difficult to imagine the mud, bloodshed and horror of the war which destroyed almost a whole generation of young men.  And, of course, the red poppy became one of the symbols of remembrance of all those who died. 


  1. Such a powerful poem! Great post!

  2. Thanks, Claudia. I've been to the site of the field hopsital where McCrae wrote the poem, and there were still poppies growing all around.

  3. I love that poem, so evocative and powerful.

  4. Hi Paula. I love that poem too, and another like it - In the Trenches. Visited the Flanders Fields a couple of years ago. So moving. It's amazing to see the poppies.


  5. Very powerful, Paula - and the photos are so beautiful which makes it an even sadder remembrance.

  6. I think of that poem every time we donate and get our red poppy to hang on the rear-view mirror.

  7. That is very interesting. I didn't know what the red poppy symbolized. My husband brings me one each year from the American Legion. Mine gets taped to the edge of my computer screen.

  8. Sarah - you're right, it is so evocative, especially when you think of where he was when he wrote it.

    Denise - both Flanders and the Somme area are amazing places to visit, but so hard to imagine what they must have been like in 1914-18.

    Rosemary - it's such a peaceful area of farmland and woodland now, but all the cemeteries with their white crosses are a constant reminder of the past.

    Word Nerd - wonder if the poppy would have been chosen if McCrae hadn't written that poem?

    Darlene - our British Legion red poppies go on sale at the end of October, and many people wear them in the couple of weeks before Remembrance Day (Nov 11th), including all the presenters etc on TV.
    I have one special poppy that I actually bought at Ypres in Belgium.

  9. As so often happens, Word Nerd and I are on the same page here...I love that poem and think of it as I sport my annual red poppy. Beautifully done.

  10. Thanks, Jo. I always wear my red poppy and remember my grandfather's youngest brother who was killed in Northern France in 1918. He was only 20.

  11. As you can imagine, In Flanders Fields is widely known in Canada. I have probably heard it thousands of times, and it still moves me each and every time.

  12. Very powerful and brilliantly written!!


  13. Hi Host/Julia - of course, McCrae and his wonderful poem must be honored in Canada, but the poem is often used here too on Remembrance Day.

    Thanks, Kathy :-)

  14. Hi Paula :-)

    my husband grew up not far from Ypres, so it's an area we visit regularly. Maybe it's due to an overactive imagination, but the area still whispers of the horrors of the battlefield and the countless lives that were lost there.

    The war cemeteries and bomb craters in the area are a most humbling sight.

    Thank you for choosing this topic!

  15. Hi K.C. - agree that there are some areas where you can really feel the past, and some of those craters are awesomely huge.

  16. WOAH such visuals..even before the visual : ) love how you write..and yes thank you for this piece of history!

  17. Thanks for sharing that beautiful and haunting poem.