In the fields of the flat lands

Phillip-Leslie-Hale-Poppies

In the north, in Flanders, where the earth is deep
Are the golden fields where the mud was red
And beneath the crosses hospital white
Lie the broken bones of a million dead.
Now in the flat lands poppies blow
Around the fields where the grain grows high
And a million dreams that flutter still
When the poplar leaves in the north wind sigh.
Dreams of love and life and home
Of a vanished world once full of light
Blow with the breeze and rise with the lark
Dance in the rain running crystal bright.
Over the flat lands the wind from the sea
Sighs through the poplars as it ever has done
Stirring the blood in the deep rich earth
And the dreams of the dead so they dance in the sun.
Now that the din and the dying’s all done
And there are no words left that have not been said
The lark in the high sky still sings its sweet song
And the fields full of poppies remember the dead.

Published by

Jane Dougherty

I used to do lots of things I didn't much enjoy. Now I am officially a writer. It's what I always wanted to be.

38 thoughts on “In the fields of the flat lands”

    1. Thank you, Diane. We lived for nine years in the shadow of the Chemin des Dames and every field seemed to have a little cemetery in one corner, and every tiny village had its war memorial. Used to cut me up.

      1. One thing that really really makes me despair is that on the Cap Gris near Calais is that there is a big war memorial dedicated to the fallen on the fist world war and right underneath it are the ruins of gun emplacements from the second world war. I wonder how the soldiers fighting under the shadow of the memorial felt about it.

      2. They were probably told to take their example from the fallen heroes. We see it as tragic irony; in France it was just the bloody Germans again. They were more or less used to it.

    1. I think what chokes me up is that they were for the most part just very simple, semi-literate farm boys and factory workers who knew nothing about anything outside their own village. Yet they had no choice but to throw themselves into the horror. Such a tragic waste of life that ended up being just a prelude to the next war.

    1. Thanks, Sherri. All those ceramic poppies are lovely but what exactly are people remembering? Is it possible to shed tears over a moving remembrance day ceremony and still supply arms, if not soldiers, to the dozens of conflicts going on all over the world?

      1. What exactly are people remembering? Well, I hope we are remembering the fallen so that we can find ways to prevent it happening again: remembering these fallen soldiers so that their short lives weren’t in vain. But I fear we have learnt nothing. I wrote my post to pay my respects to my husband’s family, men I have never met. His grandfather left his small Dorset village a young man with a handful of others. He was one of the few who returned home, gassed by mustard gas. He never spoke of the horrors of the trenches. My husband’s father served as a tank sergeant in WWII, returned home and told of the nightmares that never left him to his dying day. Both these men went on to marry, have families and live. But my husband’s Uncle Stan did not: he went down with the HMS Hood in 1943. He had just received a letter from his ailing mother (hubby’s paternal grandmother) and was desperate return home to her but he never made it. He was 22. A tragic waste of young life but I wanted to give him a voice. To say you haven’t been forgotten Stanley and we are so, so sorry. When I researched Uncle Stan last year and found his photograph and details on a site listing the honor roll of the HMS Hood, it was the first time my husband found out anything about him and saw what he looked like. There is a definite family resemblance. But of course he died two decades before my husband was born. I don’t know, I don’t have the answers. Why do we commemorate a field of ceramic red poppies while wars still rage? So long as power-hungry mad men are in charge it will always be the way. But in the end, we are each accountable to the message in our own hearts, tiny though we are. And at this time I can only speak of what is in mine, as do you in your moving poem.

      2. I hope we remember this war and all the subsequent wars. I know why ordinary people remember, because they never fully understand the need for a war and only see the millions of personal tragedies. But it isn’t ‘ordinary people’ who provoke wars. They just fight in them. The people who ought to remember seem oblivious, or only draw the lesson that wars are good for business.

    1. Thank you. My feelings exactly. I was expecting all the church bells to be ringing at eleven this morning. Not a single one. The Catholic Church couldn’t get its holy act together to make that one gesture.

  1. Very emotive poem Jane. I love the references to nature. It was supposed to be the ‘war to end all wars’. It was supposed to be ‘over by Christmas’. Instead it was a monster with an insatiable appetite – that is still ravenous today.

    1. Thank you. There are so many war cemeteries in Belgium and the north of France yet they represent only a fraction of the soldiers killed. In the Great War most of the bodies stayed in the mud where they fell.

  2. “The lark in the bright sky still sings its sweet song” – oblivious of human suffering.

    Thank you for your reply to “City of dreams” The people of ‘Blogsville’ are an encouraging group.

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