The Torch

The Torch November 11, 2009

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
to 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.

Reposted from last year, in memory of John McCrae and all those who have died for honor, country, and freedom.

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  • I've always had issues with Flanders Fields. I ended up having to take it apart for a term paper a few years back, and realized how much I hated the sentiment behind it — it basically boils down to "We are dead, and you should fight so that we didn't die in vain," with no conception of the cause worth fighting for. The death in that vision feeds itself.

  • I've always had issues with Flanders Fields. I ended up having to take it apart for a term paper a few years back, and realized how much I hated the sentiment behind it — it basically boils down to "We are dead, and you should fight so that we didn't die in vain," with no conception of the cause worth fighting for. The death in that vision feeds itself.

  • I think you've illustrated well the dangers of reading a poem – or any written work – out of context. The context of causes worth fighting for was pretty immediate and pressing for Lt. Col. McRae's audience. There are treatises out there on just war theory and there are historical analyses of jingoism, patriotism, and motivations in the first and second world wars, but that would be a bit much to expect from a battlefield medic writing poetry in the back of a truck 90 years ago.

  • I think you've illustrated well the dangers of reading a poem – or any written work – out of context. The context of causes worth fighting for was pretty immediate and pressing for Lt. Col. McRae's audience. There are treatises out there on just war theory and there are historical analyses of jingoism, patriotism, and motivations in the first and second world wars, but that would be a bit much to expect from a battlefield medic writing poetry in the back of a truck 90 years ago.