While caring to the injured and lamenting the dead—among them was his personal friend, Alexis Helmer—McCrae wrote "In Flanders Fields," a poem written from the perspective of fallen soldiers whose graves are covered with wild poppy blossoms. The poem was first published in the Toronto Daily Star on November 12, 1915.
It was originally called "The Wild Poppy" and was written as a war protest against the use of dyed cloth for uniforms when real flowers would be much more appropriate. However, it soon became apparent that this new poem differed greatly from other war poems that had been written before it. It was optimistic rather than melancholy, and focused on the beauty of nature rather than on the horrors of war.
Initially, few people took notice of the poem because it was printed inside the newspaper and also because it was considered unusual for a poet to get political and try to change the course of history through writing. But when the Germans began using black cloth for their uniforms, "In Flanders Fields" came back into focus. McCrae then decided to publish the poem in a book, which helped make it popular once again.
The poem is often cited as an example of first-person narrative poetry, but it actually includes third-person references to the soldiers still alive.
The Battle of Flanders, In Flanders Fields, one of history's most renowned battle poems, was written by Canadian officer and physician John McCrae during the First World War in 1915. It contributed to the popularity of the red poppy as a symbol of memory. The poem has been interpreted by many scholars as reflecting both McCrae's grief over the death of his young son and his determination to keep his family out of war. The last line of the poem is: "the poppies grow in Flanders field".
Flanders is a region in Belgium. The poem refers to the fields around Ypres, West Flanders. These fields were covered with flowers after the war ended, as a sign of hope and peace.
McCrae posted copies of the poem at home and at the hospital where he worked. It quickly became very popular, with hundreds of letters arriving every week asking him to explain the references in the poem. He did so in several articles published in newspapers across Canada and Britain.
The poem was first printed in a newspaper in December 1915. It was widely read by soldiers on both sides of the conflict because it expressed their common desire for peace. McCrae wanted to show that these young men who were fighting and dying in the trenches had similar feelings about war to those back home who were suffering through hardship due to the conflict.
Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae, MD (November 30, 1872 – January 28, 1918) was a Canadian poet, physician, author, and artist who served as a medic during the Second Battle of Ypres in Belgium during World War I. He is well known for his war memorial poem "In Flanders Fields."
He wrote two books of poetry, published in 1915: A Cup of Harmony and 1920's Dream.
McCrae's work focuses on the impact of the First World War on him as a person and on Canada's army. His poems describe in detail the horrors he witnessed as a doctor in an aid station near Ypres while trying to comfort other patients who were suffering from shellshock. He also reveals doubts about war and humanity that many people at the time did not feel but many others did.
After the war, he returned to Canada where he lived with his wife and son in London, Ontario. He died at age 45 after falling off a cliff while hiking with friends near Lake Huron in northern Ontario.
His body was brought back to Toronto for burial in Beechwood Cemetery. In 1990, his remains were moved to a permanent tomb at Victoria Memorial Park in London.
McCrae has been called the "Canadian Robert Frost."
Besides writing poems, McCrae painted pictures of soldiers' graves in Flanders.
McCrae, John "In Flanders fields the poppies blow," it says between the crosses, row after row. John McCrae died of illness and meningitis in 1918, but not before his poem became one of the most popular and extensively referenced pieces of literature during World War I.
It was first published in 1919 in a small English journal called The Saturday Evening Post. But it wasn't until much later that it became widely known among soldiers on both sides of the conflict. During World War I, many British poets wrote about their experiences fighting in France. One of them was John McCrae. In April 1918, he sent his poem to The Saturday Evening Post with the request that it be printed in full. The magazine's editor, George Jean Nathan, was so moved by what he read that he bought the copyright from McCrae and had it published under his own name. Nathan also included a preface in which he praised McCrae's work as "one of the best poems of sorrow and courage that we have had since 1914 began." After the war ended, the book went through several more editions and has never been out of print since its initial publication.
The poem is based on actual events that took place near Ypres, Belgium. It tells of how men look at flowers and trees when they are far away from home and wonder if they will ever see those places again.