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Art in War: In Flanders Field

Many people often say that art equates to suffering and those who create the best art are those who are tortured souls. While this isn’t necessarily true, there have been some cases where the most beautiful works were created in the darkest places.

There are few periods as dark in human history as the World Wars. Where millions of unfortunate souls lost their lives in bloody and often pointless deaths. Many of those deaths were soldiers who had little choice in what happened to them, being forced to obey their generals.

That did not mean their voices were drowned out. Many journals, poems, and stories have emerged from those who fought in the World Wars, showcasing their private feelings about what happened around them.

Perhaps one of the most poignant was the poem, “In Flanders Field.” This poem was written by a Canadian soldier named Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae. John had fought in the Second Battle of Ypres where the Canadians were exposed to mustard gas, causing horrific injuries and death, including a friend of John, Alexis Helmer.

He was inspired to write this poem after presiding over Alexis’s funeral with the poppy representing a common flower used to honor soldiers.

“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.”

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