Tuesday, November 11, 2008
November 11th is Remembrance Day, or Veterans' Day to our southerly neighbours.
Today, we set aside a moment from our day-to-day lives to remember those who gave theirs in order that we might be able to live as we do.
A solemn occasion, and yet a celebration as well.
I live a stone's throw from the largest Military Base in Canada, CFB Petawawa. In my time, I have seen and taken part in many Remembrance Day ceremonies.
All across the country, cenotaphs and war memorials will be packed with War Vets, government officials, military brigades and scads of civilians. Wreaths will be laid, moving speeches will be said, the bagpipes will play. It's very emotional.
Eventually, the poem In Flanders Fields will be read - usually by some middle school-aged child who will read it like he/she was reading Old Mother Hubbard.
Yes, it's a poem. Yes, it's written in rondeau form. Doesn't mean it was meant to be read that way. This is one of the most beautiful, stark and moving pieces of prose ever written. It wrenches my heart whenever I read it - and it makes my blood boil when I hear it orally presented with all the emotion of a weather report.
For your consideration, allow me to print the poem as I believe it should be read. Perhaps then you will understand what I mean. Take note of punctuation - it makes all the difference in the world.
In Flanders field the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row, that mark our place;
And in the sky, the lark, still bravely singing
Fly scarce heard amidst the guns below
We are the dead.
Short days ago we lived, felt dawn, saw sunset's 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 Field
-Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae