Memorial Day Poppies & Poems

The origin of the red poppy as a symbol of remembrance on Memorial Day was the idea of an American teacher and humanitarian, Miss Moina Michael, inspired by the poem “In Flanders Fields.” This year is the 100th anniversary of “In Flanders Fields” by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae. He was a Canadian physician, poet, and soldier serving with the Allied Powers in Belgium during World War I. McCrae composed his famous poem in May 1915 after burying a friend, as he was deeply moved by the sight of red field poppies growing around the soldiers’ graves.

In Flanders Fields

By John McCrae (1872-1918)

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.

“In Flanders Fields” is one of the most quoted poems from the First World War. On November 9, 1918, Miss Moina Michael wrote a poem in response called “We Shall Keep the Faith.” In tribute to the opening lines of McCrae’s poem, Miss Michael vowed to always wear a red poppy as a symbol of remembrance. She also began selling poppies with the money going to benefit servicemen in need. The Memorial Poppy movement started by Miss Michael continues to this day.

We Shall Keep the Faith

By Moina Michael (1869-1944)

Oh! you who sleep in Flanders Fields,
Sleep sweet – to rise anew!
We caught the torch you threw
And holding high, we keep the Faith
With All who died.

We cherish, too, the poppy red
That grows on fields where valor led;
It seems to signal to the skies
That blood of heroes never dies,
But lends a lustre to the red
Of the flower that blooms above the dead
In Flanders Fields.

And now the Torch and Poppy Red
We wear in honor of our dead.
Fear not that ye have died for naught;
We’ll teach the lesson that ye wrought
In Flanders Fields.

Click here to download a free poppy coloring page:

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