Tuesday 23 September 2014

Poppies at the Tower

A few weeks ago I braved the misery of a wet London day to see the poppies at the Tower of London.  A lot has been written about this elsewhere (see here and here, for example) so I won't go into detail except to say that the installation, titled Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Blood, represents every British soldier who died in the First World War.  The ceramic poppies are still being planted, but by 11th November, there will be 888,246 of them.

Even in the gloom the poppies were stunning - perhaps all the more stunning because of the gloom.

Seeing these poppies floating in the mud and the rain in the moat was a visceral reminder of the Flanders trenches.  In a simple, true, powerful way it gave me new insights into John McCrae's poem.

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.

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