"In Flanders Fields" is one of the most famous poems written during World War I, created in the form of a French rondeau. It has been called "the most popular poem" produced during that period. Canadian physician and Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae (born in Guelph, Ontario) wrote it on May 3, 1915, after he witnessed the death of his friend, Lieutenant Alexis Helmer, only 22 years old, the day before. The poem was first published on December 8 of that year in the London-based magazine Punch.
The poppies referred to in the poem grew in profusion in Flanders in the spoiled earth of the battlefields and cemeteries where war casualties were buried and thus became a symbol of Remembrance Day. The poem is part of Remembrance Day solemnities in Allied countries which contributed troops to World War I, particularly in countries of the British Empire that did so.
By most accounts it was written in John McCrae’s notebook and later rejected by him. Ripped out of his notebook, it was rescued by a fellow officer, Francis Alexander Scrimger and later published in Punch magazine.
In 1915 US professor Moina Michael inspired by the poem published a poem of her own in response, called “We Shall Keep the Faith”. In tribute to the opening lines of McCrae's poem -- "In Flanders fields the poppies blow / Between the crosses row on row," -- Michael vowed to always wear a red poppy as a symbol of remembrance for those who served in the war.
The poem has achieved near-mythic status in contemporary Canada and is one of the nation's most prominent symbols. Most Remembrance Day ceremonies will feature a reading of the poem in some form (it is also sung a cappella in some places), and many Canadian schoolchildren memorize the verse. The poem is now also a common part of Remembrance Day ceremonies in the United Kingdom, where it holds as one of the nation's best-loved.
In Flanders Fields
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.