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.

Summary of In Flanders Fields

  • Popularity of “In Flanders Fields”: John McCrae, a famous Canadian poet and artist, wrote “The Flanders Field” which is also one of the famous lyrical poems. It was first published in December 1915 in England’s Punch.  The poem pays tribute to the dead soldiers, who lost the battle of their lives while defending their country in war. The popularity of the poem lies in the fact that it shows the vulnerability of life and also how ‘poppy’ flowers have become a symbol of honor to the fallen soldiers in World War One and Two.
  • “In Flanders Field” as a Representative of Hope: The poem reinforces desires of the fallen soldiers who left the transient world, but their souls are still attached to their lands. The poppies and endless rows of crosses mark the graves of those who lost their lives during the war. The poet, very artistically, tries to create empathy between his readers and the dead soldiers by explaining that once they were alive and now, they all have passed and lie peacefully in Flanders Fields. And the larks are flying and singing above the land. Enthralled with hope, the poet encourages the living to take the baton and continue the combat against enemies. And, if they are not going to take up the arms, the dead will not be able to sleep peacefully in their graves, haunted by their failure.
  • Major Themes in “In Flanders Fields”: Juxtapositions of life, death, and hope are the significant themes layered in the poem. The poet has used vibrant imagery along with other literary elements to incorporate these themes. The crosses show the number of lives, which we have lost in the war. Also, poppies and singing of the larks stand for life and hope, which means all is not lost. Therefore, those who are alive should fight and honor the dead and their legacy.

 Analysis of Literary Devices in “In Flanders Fields”

Literary devices are techniques that writers use to create a special and pointed effect in their texts. Their appropriate use can help readers understand the simple text on a deeper level. The analysis of some of the literary devices used in this poem has been given below.

  • Alliteration: Alliteration is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line such as /f/ sound in “In Flanders fields, the poppies blow” and /s/ sound in “We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,”
  • Imagery: Imagery is used to make the readers perceive things with their five senses. John has used imagery appealing to the sense of sight such as, “In Flanders fields, the poppies blow”, “sunset glow” and “Between the crosses, row on row.”
  • Symbolism: Symbolism is using symbols to signify ideas and qualities, giving them symbolic meanings that are different from the literal meanings. John has used a lot of symbols in this poem such as, “poppies” symbolizes the dead souls and “torch” is the symbol of hope. Similarly, “rows of poppies” symbolize the rows of dead soldiers and “larks” are the symbol of life.
  • Enjambment: It is defined as thought in a verse that does not come to an end at a line break; rather, it rolls over to the next line. For example,

“To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.”

  • Hyperbole: Hyperbole is a figure of speech in which the writer exaggerates things to an extreme. John has used this device in the final stanza of the poem where he says,To you from failing hands we throw The torch.” The dead souls are not actually throwing the torch. Instead, it represents the hope that they are presenting to the world.
  • Personification: Personification is to accord human characteristics to inanimate objects. John has used personification in line four of the poem, “The larks, still bravely singing, fly”, as if the larks are humans that can sing.
  • Metaphor: There is only one metaphor used in the first line of the second stanza of the poem, “We are the Dead.” The poet is comparing older soldiers to the dead and referring them as already dead.

The literary analysis shows that this poem, though seems a simple composition, can quickly grab the readers’ attention due to its thought-provoking subject.

Analysis of Poetic Devices in “In Flanders Field”

 Poetic and literary devices are the same, but a few are used only in poetry. Here is the analysis of some of the poetic devices used in this poem.

  • Rondeau: A Rondeau is a short poem consisting of fifteen lines that has two rhymes throughout. The first few words or phrases from the first line are repeated twice in the poem as a refrain. This poem is written in the format of French rondeau.
  • Stanza: A stanza is a poetic form of some lines. There are three stanzas in this poem, and all vary in their length.
  • Quatrain: A quatrain is a four-lined stanza borrowed from Persian poetry. Here, the second stanza is quatrain.
  • Quintet: A Quintet is a five-lined stanza. Here, the first stanza is a quintet, as it is composed of five lines.
  • Sestet: A sestet is a six-lined stanza of poetry. Here, the final stanza is sestet, as it comprises six lines.
  • Rhyme Scheme: The poem follows the AABBA, AABC, AABBAC rhyme scheme.
  • Iambic Tetrameter: It is a type of meter in which there are four iambs per line. This poem comprises iambic tetrameter such as, “In Flanders fields the poppies blow.”
  • Repetition: There is a repetition of the short verse, “In Flanders fields” which has created the musical quality in the poem.
  • Refrain: The lines that are repeated again at some distance in the poem are called refrain. “In Flanders Fields” is repeated with the same words, it has become a refrain.

Quotes to be Used

These lines can be used in a speech to motivate the young generation when recruiting for the military.

“Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.”