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NCPR staff blog
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  • 11/11/12--13:01: By: Marquil
  • A beautiful essay on a war that still resonates, though evermore dimly. The poppy occupies a prominent spot at the threshold of the modern age: As much a memorial to earlier ideals of conflict, destroyed by new forms of industrialized warfare, as a memorial to the soon-to-be outmoded form of popular communication that delivered the symbol to the western public's imagination: the poem. As for McCrea's exhortation to carry on the torch of warfare, Yeats's (An Irishman Foresees His Death) or Owens (Anthem for a Doomed Youth) seem to capture the historical moment better.

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  • 11/12/12--06:00: By: Ellen Rocco
  • Wonderful piece, Lucy. A few years ago, the history of WWI captured my interest and I read both fiction and non-fiction about the era. From Canada, I'd highly recommend Jane Urquhart's "The Stone Carvers."

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  • 11/12/12--06:47: By: Lucy Martin
  • Marquil and Ellen, thanks for your thoughtful comments. I agree that McCrea's poem has a potentially discordant section. But I think those troublesome lines are misunderstood by many today. The poem works beautifully for me, at least, if it is re-cast as a cry that the cause must rise above squabbles of imperialist powers. Many in the Great War thought (hoped) the incredible slaughter could be in the service of something that might justify the madness. Since WW I seems to have solved nothing - and arguable caused WW II - we tend to roll our eyes at the phrase "war to end all war". But that was one way WW I was "sold". A tempting prospect, that. One last harrowing, nightmare to be sure there would be no more. H.G. Wells penned a number of articles that became a WW I-era book to that effect. When John McCrae wrote this: 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. I postulate that the forces that create war are the foe McCrae wanted defeated,least the numbing waste be for naught. I'll quote a section from the aforementioned Wells book found on an Internet archive :So that the harvest of this darkness comes now almost as a relief, and it is a grim satisfaction in our discomforts that we can at last look across the roar and torment of battlefields to the possibility of an organised peace. For this is now a war for peace. It aims straight at disarmament. It aims at a settlement that shall stop this sort of thing for ever. Every soldier who fights against Germany now is a crusader against war. This, the greatest of all wars, is not just another war it is the last war ! ------------------------------------- Alas, alas. It was not.

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  • 11/11/12--13:01: By: Marquil
  • A beautiful essay on a war that still resonates, though evermore dimly. The poppy occupies a prominent spot at the threshold of the modern age: As much a memorial to earlier ideals of conflict, destroyed by new forms of industrialized warfare, as a memorial to the soon-to-be outmoded form of popular communication that delivered the symbol to the western public's imagination: the poem. As for McCrea's exhortation to carry on the torch of warfare, Yeats's (An Irishman Foresees His Death) or Owens (Anthem for a Doomed Youth) seem to capture the historical moment better.

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  • 11/12/12--06:00: By: Ellen Rocco
  • Wonderful piece, Lucy. A few years ago, the history of WWI captured my interest and I read both fiction and non-fiction about the era. From Canada, I'd highly recommend Jane Urquhart's "The Stone Carvers."

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  • 11/12/12--06:47: By: Lucy Martin
  • Marquil and Ellen, thanks for your thoughtful comments. I agree that McCrea's poem has a potentially discordant section. But I think those troublesome lines are misunderstood by many today. The poem works beautifully for me, at least, if it is re-cast as a cry that the cause must rise above squabbles of imperialist powers. Many in the Great War thought (hoped) the incredible slaughter could be in the service of something that might justify the madness. Since WW I seems to have solved nothing - and arguable caused WW II - we tend to roll our eyes at the phrase "war to end all war". But that was one way WW I was "sold". A tempting prospect, that. One last harrowing, nightmare to be sure there would be no more. H.G. Wells penned a number of articles that became a WW I-era book to that effect. When John McCrae wrote this: <em>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.</em> I postulate that the forces that create war are the foe McCrae wanted defeated,least the numbing waste be for naught. I'll quote a section from the aforementioned Wells book found on an <a href='http://www30.us.archive.org/stream/warthatwillendwa00welluoft/warthatwillendwa00welluoft_djvu.txt' rel="nofollow">Internet archive</a> : <em>So that the harvest of this darkness comes now almost as a relief, and it is a grim satisfaction in our discomforts that we can at last look across the roar and torment of battlefields to the possibility of an organised peace. For this is now a war for peace. It aims straight at disarmament. It aims at a settlement that shall stop this sort of thing for ever. Every soldier who fights against Germany now is a crusader against war. This, the greatest of all wars, is not just another war it is the last war !</em> ------------------------------------- Alas, alas. It was not.

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  • 11/11/12--13:01: By: Marquil
  • A beautiful essay on a war that still resonates, though evermore dimly. The poppy occupies a prominent spot at the threshold of the modern age: As much a memorial to earlier ideals of conflict, destroyed by new forms of industrialized warfare, as a memorial to the soon-to-be outmoded form of popular communication that delivered the symbol to the western public's imagination: the poem. As for McCrea's exhortation to carry on the torch of warfare, Yeats's (An Irishman Foresees His Death) or Owens (Anthem for a Doomed Youth) seem to capture the historical moment better.

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  • 11/12/12--06:00: By: Ellen Rocco
  • Wonderful piece, Lucy. A few years ago, the history of WWI captured my interest and I read both fiction and non-fiction about the era. From Canada, I'd highly recommend Jane Urquhart's "The Stone Carvers."

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  • 11/12/12--06:47: By: Lucy Martin
  • Marquil and Ellen, thanks for your thoughtful comments. I agree that McCrea's poem has a potentially discordant section. But I think those troublesome lines are misunderstood by many today. The poem works beautifully for me, at least, if it is re-cast as a cry that the cause must rise above squabbles of imperialist powers. Many in the Great War thought (hoped) the incredible slaughter could be in the service of something that might justify the madness. Since WW I seems to have solved nothing - and arguable caused WW II - we tend to roll our eyes at the phrase "war to end all war". But that was one way WW I was "sold". A tempting prospect, that. One last harrowing, nightmare to be sure there would be no more. H.G. Wells penned a number of articles that became a WW I-era book to that effect. When John McCrae wrote this: <em>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.</em> I postulate that the forces that create war are the foe McCrae wanted defeated,least the numbing waste be for naught. I'll quote a section from the aforementioned Wells book found on an <a href='http://www30.us.archive.org/stream/warthatwillendwa00welluoft/warthatwillendwa00welluoft_djvu.txt' rel="nofollow">Internet archive</a> : <em>So that the harvest of this darkness comes now almost as a relief, and it is a grim satisfaction in our discomforts that we can at last look across the roar and torment of battlefields to the possibility of an organised peace. For this is now a war for peace. It aims straight at disarmament. It aims at a settlement that shall stop this sort of thing for ever. Every soldier who fights against Germany now is a crusader against war. This, the greatest of all wars, is not just another war it is the last war !</em> ------------------------------------- Alas, alas. It was not.