This poem laments the loss of hundreds of young men who perished in the arduous battles of Flanders. Can you explain why, during the war, people regarded it largely as a pro-war poetry, despite the fact that it was frequently read subsequently as an anti-war poem?
Flanders is a region in Belgium. The name Flanders comes from the French language: flamands means "flame-coloured". Thus, the original name for this region was Flamand's Valley. In English, it is often called "Flamey Fields" after the first line of the poem: "In Flanders fields the poppies blow".
"In Flanders fields" was written by Australian poet John McCrae while he was serving in Europe as a surgeon with the Canadian army. He wrote the poem within a few days of learning that one of his close friends had been killed in action.
The poem was published in a Toronto newspaper on November 11th, 1915. It quickly became popular and helped to boost patriotic feelings in Canada, which at the time was still engaged in its own war effort against Germany. However, it wasn't until much later that many people began to interpret it as an anti-war poem.
McCrae himself was a strong supporter of the war effort and never intended the poem to be interpreted in such a manner.
In terms of being strictly for or against war, "In Flanders Fields" is a bit of a conundrum. Because the poem's speaker is a fallen soldier, it is hard to conclude that it is entirely pro-war. However, the poem instills a great deal of optimism and honor, making it a strong supporter of the aspects of battle.
The first thing one should note is that the poem is not actually by Kipling but by Joseph Plunket Greene. It was published in 1919 as part of a collection called Bartlett's Quotations. Bartlett's began as a series of quotations arranged by subject matter but has evolved into more of a reference book. As such, it often includes poems by other people under various categories (such as this one) where the author is not readily apparent.
Kipling wrote two additional stanzas that were later added to the poem by its publisher. These two stanzas are largely positive about war and include many allusions to the bravery and courage of soldiers that might make some readers think that they were written by someone who was definitely in favor of war. However, there are also several lines in these two stanzas that seem to question whether or not wars are worth fighting - especially when you consider the many innocent victims that they cause.
The poem is dedicated to the fallen troops who sacrificed their lives while protecting their nation during the conflict. The poet attempts to establish empathy between his audience and the fallen soldiers by stating that they were all alive once and now rest peacefully in Flanders Fields. This leads up to the next question.
Flanders is a region in Belgium where large numbers of soldiers died during the conflict. Fields are what remains of these battles today, so it is appropriate that they are called Flanders Fields. Nowadays they are maintained by the Memorial Project as a place of remembrance for all those who lost their lives.
The poem also mentions other places where wars have been fought before, such as Egypt, Greece, Rome and Jerusalem. However, it is only when speaking of Flanders that we get to see and hear how much these wars affect the people involved. For example, we learn about a young man named Albert who was responsible for planting the seeds along the road leading up to his home. He did this because he wanted to protect them from being destroyed by the artillery fire coming from the nearby battlefields.
Another character named Jean Pierre gets involved in the story. He too lived in Albert's house and took part in the effort to grow the crops. However, he went beyond just planting seeds and started working on a project called "The Potato Race".