An illustration of John McCrae, author of the poem "In Flanders Fields," by Janet Wilson.
An illustration of John McCrae, author of the poem "In Flanders Fields," by Janet Wilson. (RICK KOWALCZYKOWSKI / BALTIMORE SUN)

Tomorrow is Armistice Day/Remembrance Day/Veterans Day. It is therefore fitting to run one of World War I's most famous poems: "In Flanders Fields," written 100 years ago by Canadian physician, poet and army officer John McCrae, who briefly interned as a pathologist at Johns Hopkins Hospital with one of its founders, Dr. William Osler (His brother, Dr.Thomas McCrea, served as an associate professor for several years at Hopkins and collaborated with Dr. Osler on several publications on modern medicine).

McCrae, a battle surgeon, was inspired to write "In Flanders Fields" by the death of his friend Alexis Helmer, who was killed in the Battle of Ypres, when a shell fell nearby. The poem speaks to all wars, however, the effects of which carry through the generations and have great costs for the living. Today, as then, we thank the brave men and women who defend the nation, but we hope and pray for peace as they do.


Paul McCardell is The Baltimore Sun's research librarian. His email is pmccardell@baltsun.com.

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.

— John McCrae