” This Remembrance Day/Veterans Day piece from the first November 11th after September 11th is anthologized in The Face Of The Tiger. And don’t forget Monique Fauteux’s and my live performance of the greatest of songs from the Great War, “Roses Of Picardy“, in a special Song of the Week audio edition.
On CNN the other day, Larry King asked Tony Blair what it was he had in his buttonhole. It was a poppy — not a real poppy, but a stylized, mass-produced thing of red paper and green plastic that, as the Prime Minister explained, is worn in Britain and other Commonwealth countries in the days before November 11th. They’re sold in the street by aged members of the Royal British Legion to commemorate that moment 83 years ago today, when on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month the guns fell silent on the battlefields of Europe.
The poppy is an indelible image of that “war to end all wars”, summoned up by a Canadian, Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae, in a poem written in the trenches in May 1915:
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.
Row on row on row.
And, in between, thousands of poppies, for they bloom in uprooted soil. Sacrifice on the scale McCrae witnessed is all but unimaginable in the west today — in Canada, in Britain, even apparently in America, which instead of sending in the cavalry is now dropping horse feed for the Northern Alliance, in the hope they might rouse themselves to seize an abandoned village or two, weather permitting.”