Flanders Fields Forever

News over the weekend that Toronto business man Arthur Lee had purchased some war medals at auction for $400,000 was good news for McCrae House in Guelph, Ontario. This national historic site is the birthplace of John McCrae (1872-1918), a respected physician, noted professor of medicine at McGill University, and recipient of the medals.

Of course, McCrae is best remembered as the author of “In Flanders Fields“, first published in December, 1915, in the British magazine “Punch”. This famous poem of World War I, still memorized by schoolchildren, was written while he was a member of the Canadian Army Medical Corps.

The new and rightful home of McCrae’s medals is a charming limestone cottage in a quiet setting near the banks of the Speed River. Built in 1858 and expanded 10 years later, the house was the first home of David and Janet McCrae after their marriage in 1879. The house has been restored to its original appearance, and rooms depict the daily life of a young middle-class family of the period. The surrounding gardens and memorial park feature many species of poppy throughout the blooming season.

In Flanders Fields” is still invoked, wherever peacis the goal. As Remembrance Day approaches, the poem bears repeating:

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.