11 November 2015

This holiday was originally called "Armistice Day" to commemorate the ending of World War I, originally the Great War, which officially ended at 11 a.m. on November 11, 1918 ("the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month"). My parents, who were born in that decade, still called it that even after the name was changed after World War II.

In "my day" (that sounds so pretentious!), this poem was heard at school assemblies every November. We all learned it by heart:
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.

It's probably the one World War I poem everyone knows. The author was John McCrae, a Canadian, who did not survive the war.

More World War I Poetry

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