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Written by Connie Skibinski
'In Flanders Fields and Other Poems' focuses on the legacy of the Anzac soldiers, in particular, how their brave sacrifice paves the way for a better future. This is seen through the motif of passing on the torch. This is clearly seen in the optimistic quote "To you we throw the torch; be yours to hold it high." The overarching message of 'In Flanders Fields', 'The Anxious Dead' and 'The Warrior' is closely related to notions of legacy, as the poems triumphantly declare that that war heroes will never be forgotten.
The injustice of war
The poems convey the tragic loss of life in war. They focus on soldiers who were once fit, healthy and eager to serve, who tragically died in service. This is apparent in haunting quotes such as "We are the Dead. Short days ago we lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow," and "We will onward till we fall." McCrae's poems use pathos and narrative voice to encourage the reader to empathize with the fallen soldiers, thus emphasizing the tragic nature of their death.
Death and Rebirth
As is typical for war poetry, McCrae's poems have a strong focus on death and human mortality. However, these poems also have a striking message of optimism and rebirth. The poppies are a clear symbol of this, as they transform an image of death (blood) into a symbol of new life (flowers). This also ties in with the religious overtones of the poems. Numerous religious allusions, such as references to crosses, parallel notions of rebirth.
Courage and Bravery
The poems praise the soldier's courage and bravery. The poems convey the horrors of war and the constant threat of death and disease. Desipte this, the soldiers are characterised as determined and strong. The line "the larks, still bravely singing, fly" uses the bird symbol to represent the plight of the soldiers, as they protect their nation and are courageous, even in the face of the enemy.
A major theme in McCrae's poetry is hope. This is a key theme in war poetry, as it provides an alternate view upon the horrors and devastation of war. The poems are filled with many striking symbols of hope, such as the poppy, lark, lamp and torch. This emphasizes the importance of resilience and the necessity to view difficult situations with a positive attitude.
In McCrae's poetry, nature provides great comfort to the soldiers. This can be seen through the symbolic lark and poppies in 'In Flanders Fields', which provide a sense of peace and joy. Furthermore, in 'The Anxious Dead', earth is personified with the ability to provide relief and rest to the fallen soldiers. "They shall feel earth enwrapt in silence deep; shall greet, in wonderment, the quite dawn." In this way, McCrae presents the world as something worth protecting and defending, while humans are barbaric and cruel.
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