Friday, 11 November 2011

Lest We Forget

In Flanders Fields

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.

John McCrae, 1915

The horrific trenches in Flanders Fields were the site of around half a million deaths of soldiers (French, English, Belgian and German) in WWI.   The majority of soldiers who perished were the victims of the deadly gas Yperite which was invented in the nearby city of Ypres - a city almost destroyed in WWI.  Visit the Flanders Fields museum in Ypres (if you can), and discover the horror and hopelessness of being a soldier in the trenches.

On Remembrance Day we pay homage to all those who have died in battle, we hold our silence on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month (Armistice Day).  The admonition ‘Lest we forget’ was based on the hope that remembering the terrible human cost of military conflict (both military and civilian) we would learn and never walk that path again.

We have not learned and probably never will.  The very nature of humankind leads us to war.  It is my hope and belief that most warfare (in which we are the defender) is justified in that we seek to fight injustice the world over.  We cannot sit back comfortably while others are subject to man’s inhumanity to man.

First They Came

First they came for the Communists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Communist
Then they came for the Socialists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Socialist
Then they came for the trade unionists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a trade unionist
Then they came for the Jews
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Jew
Then they came for me
And there was no one left
To speak out for me

Attributed to Pastor Martin Niemoller.

We must always speak out, always fight wrongs, for if not we are lost.

We must always remember, always remember those who laid down their life for our freedom.  Remembrance Day does not glorify war nor is it a celebration for there is nothing glorious about war; war is a sad indictment that at base level we are still very much in our infancy, we have far to go before we reach our adulthood.

Hopefully one day, the white poppy of peace will supersede the need to remember lives in the form of red poppies worn today, red poppies that are true to the colour of blood spent on distant battle fields.  Until then, we must honour our dead, must always remember those who laid down their lives for our freedom.  Always remember, always, for if not they died in vain.

Anna

6 comments:

Frances Garrood said...

Beautiful, thoughtful poems. Thanks, Anna.

ds said...

We save our poppies for Memorial Day (in May) and use this day not only to remember the dead, but to honor the living. Those are most powerful poems, and speak directly to the pure horror of war.
If only...

Thank you.

NorthernTeacher said...

Poignant, Anna

Ursula said...

"They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them."
Laurence Binyon, Cornwall, 1915

Lovely post, Anna. Lest we forget!
http://www.ursulasweeklywanders.com/culture/lest-we-forget…/

Baishali said...

a deep and beautiful poem ... loved it :)

HyperCRYPTICal said...

Thank you for your kind comments folks and yes ds, we should also honour the living victims of warfare.

Anna :o]