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‘In Flanders Fields’: Canadian children recite our 100-year-old poem

Inspired by The Vimy Foundation’s work around the poem’s centennial, we called upon Canadian children to recite ‘In Flanders Fields’ for Remembrance Day


 

It’s been 100 years since John McCrae, a doctor and soldier born in Guelph, wrote In Flanders Fields. Inspired by the death of his comrade a day earlier, he is thought to have composed the piece in the back of an ambulance after a battle in Belgium. Though he initially discarded his work, another soldier found and published what would become one of Canada’s most iconic poems.

To celebrate the poem’s centennial, The Vimy Foundation, a charity dedicated to preserving Canada’s First World War history, called upon 100,000 Canadian children to recite it in the week leading up to Remembrance Day. “It’s the idea of passing on the torch of remembrance,” says Jeremy Diamond, executive director of the foundation. “It was written by a Canadian; it’s recited by Canadians, and it’s something we can call our own.”

So far, 95,000 students at 2,000 schools, in every province and territory, have pledged to recite In Flanders Fields. The Vimy Foundation, together with Ipsos Reid, recently found that 18 to 34-year-olds know the stanzas better than their seniors, as just 30 per cent of Canadians overall say they know the first verse. “It’s very encouraging that young people remember,” says Diamond, “and it’s very emotional for 90-year-old veterans to hear six and seven-year-olds reciting it.”

Maclean’s got on board with the project and asked children in Toronto to read the poem. Have a listen to these young bards as they recount a 100-year-old story of remembrance.

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‘In Flanders Fields’: Canadian children recite our 100-year-old poem

  1. I have an uncle buried in those fields; wounded at Vimy, died a month later.
    He, and those died with him in so many wars, are the main reason I wear a poppy.
    And hope we don’t “study war no more.”

  2. A Home Shopping Channel advert came across but not the poem. Well, I will now re-read it for myself from Gerson and Davies’ excellent anthology of Canadian Poetry.

    “Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and make perpetual Light to shine upon them.”

  3. A facile interpretation of the last 6 lines of ‘In Flanders Fields’ might conclude the ‘foe’ referred to are German soldiers, making the poem’s last lines more of a war propaganda statement. However, really, the foes that created the need for crosses ‘row on row’ are in fact, Greed, Arrogance, and Ego. Their legacy is always chaos. Perhaps this is what was going through the mind of Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae as he contemplated the poppies blowing in the breeze, and the waste of his young friends life. Let those of us who live on, ‘take up the quarrel’ with those foes to honour the dead who can no longer ‘hold the torch’.

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