We are the Dead.
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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. During the early days of the Second Battle of Ypres a young Canadian artillery officer, Lieutenant Alexis Helmer, was killed on 2 May, in the gun positions near Ypres.
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An exploding German artillery shell landed near him. The next day, he composed the poem while sitting in the back of an ambulance at an Advanced Dressing Station outside Ypres. In Flanders Fields and Other Poems , a collection of McCrae's works, contains two versions of the poem: a printed text as below and a handwritten copy where the first line ends with "grow" instead of "blow", as discussed under Publication : .
We are the Dead. As with his earlier poems, "In Flanders Fields" continues McCrae's preoccupation with death and how it stands as the transition between the struggle of life and the peace that follows. It speaks of their sacrifice and serves as their command to the living to press on. Cyril Allinson was a sergeant major in McCrae's unit.
While delivering the brigade's mail, he watched McCrae as he worked on the poem, noting that McCrae's eyes periodically returned to Helmer's grave as he wrote.
When handed the notepad, Allinson read the poem and was so moved he immediately committed it to memory. He described it as being "almost an exact description of the scene in front of us both".
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It is said he crumpled the paper and threw it away. Elder,  or Allinson. Another story of the poem's origin claimed that Helmer's funeral was held on the morning of May 2, after which McCrae wrote the poem in 20 minutes. A third claim, by Morrison, was that McCrae worked on the poem as time allowed between arrivals of wounded soldiers in need of medical attention. It was then sent to Punch , where it was published on December 8, The word that ends the first line of the poem has been disputed.
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According to Allinson, the poem began with "In Flanders Fields the poppies grow" when first written. McCrae used either word when making handwritten copies for friends and family. Most recently, the Bank of Canada was inundated with queries and complaints from those who believed the first line should end with "grow", when a design for the ten-dollar bill was released in , with the first stanza of "In Flanders Fields", ending the first line with "blow".
Soldiers took encouragement from it as a statement of their duty to those who died while people on the home front viewed it as defining the cause for which their brothers and sons were fighting.
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It was often used for propaganda, particularly in Canada by the Unionist Party during the federal election amidst the Conscription Crisis. French Canadians in Quebec were strongly opposed to the possibility of conscription but English Canadians voted overwhelmingly to support Prime Minister Robert Borden and the Unionist government.
He stated in a letter: "I hope I stabbed a [French] Canadian with my vote". The poem was a popular motivational tool in Great Britain, where it was used to encourage soldiers fighting against Germany, and in the United States where it was reprinted across the country. It was one of the most quoted works during the war,  used in many places as part of campaigns to sell war bonds , during recruiting efforts and to criticize pacifists and those who sought to profit from the war.
Describing it as "vicious" and "stupid", Fussell called the final lines a "propaganda argument against a negotiated peace".
In Flanders Fields
McCrae was moved to the medical corps and stationed in Boulogne , France, in June where he was promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel and placed in charge of medicine at the Number 3 Canadian General Hospital. On the other side of the water there is terrible carnage. I do not know why men fight and die. I do not know why men sweat and slave. Saying grace, of course, as Kristen at Zena was probably aware, is both a giving of thanks and a plea for forgiveness.
- Poppies in October.
- Accessibility links.
- Lesson Plans On Death and Dying?
- Wild Poppies by Marion McCready | Poetry Magazine!
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