Friday, November 11, 2011

For Veteran's Day


For Veteran's Day, two memorial poems. One by British poet John McCrae and the other by American poet Walt Whitman.

After World War I, November 11 became known as Remembrance Day in Europe, commemorating the end of the war “on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.” 

Red poppies bloomed across some of the worst battlefields of Flanders in World War I. Their bright red color came to symbolize the blood spilt in war, and the poppy became the emblem of Remembrance Day because of the poem In Flanders Fields.

In Flanders Fields
By John McCrae

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.

                                   *         *         *         *         *         *

During the American Civil War Walt Whitman volunteered as a nurse in army hospitals. He also made visits to the wounded and read the newspaper, literature, and poetry to the young men which many found more comforting that visits from chaplains. The war inspired many poems from Whitman, and he was obviously deeply moved by the conflict within his country.

         Old War Dreams
By Walt Whitman

In midnight sleep of many a face of anguish,
Of the look at first of the mortally wounded, (of that indescribable look,)
Of the dead on their backs with arms extended wide,
I dream, I dream, I dream.

Of scenes of Nature, fields and mountains,
Of skies so beauteous after a storm, and at night the moon so
unearthly bright,
Shining sweetly, shining down, where we dig the trenches and
gather the heaps,
I dream, I dream, I dream.

Long have they pass'd, faces and trenches and fields,
Where through the carnage I moved with a callous composure, or away
from the fallen,
Onward I sped at the time--but now of their forms at night,
I dream, I dream, I dream.

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