arbitrary stuff that comes to mind: whenever I feel like thinking aloud

Monday, November 8, 2010

My Father, like so many fathers of his generation, kept his silence about the war

My father fought in the Second World War.
He did not speak much of it.
In those far-off days, it was uncommon for men to admit to emotion, let alone show it.
Instead, they would hold it inside.Occasionally they would meet at the old Moth Hall in downtown Johannesburg, and in the company of other survivors let alcohol loosen their tongues and their memories. But that is as far as it went.

But there was one day of the year that he might put on his jacket, and the medals of service, and go down to the Centopath to pay his respects, and, occasionally, show publicly his memory of loss.

That was on the 11th day of the 11th month, at the 11th minute of the 11th hour: at the appointed time and day when the promise was kept: "we will remember them". In my own time, as a member of the Transvaal Scottish, Second Battalion, I too have marched up to the war memorial, and stopped there to pay the respects that every generation always pays in its turn, the respect of this generation given to those who have gone before.

If there was one thing which would bring the spark of emotion visibly to my father's face, it was this: the poem that brought to life Poppies Day. I hope that it moves you to. Here it is, in full.

"In Flanders Fields"

In Flanders fields the poppies grow
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.


by John MacRae
the image is of  his original handwritten copy 
About the poem: The making of 'In Flanders Fields'

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