In Flanders Fields and Other Poems Symbols, Allegory and Motifs
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Written by Connie Skibinski
Poppies are a key symbol in McCrae's poetry, and a powerful symbol of the ANZAC legacy. As red poppies grew in large quantities on the battlefield, their stark red colour became associated with the blood of fallen soldiers. In this way, they represent the lives of those who died in battle, and are a symbol of Remembrance and commemoration. They are also an optimistic symbol, as they represent that new life is born out of death and destruction. This illustrates how the soldiers' brave sacrifice has led to a better world.
Larks are traditionally symbolic of hope and love. Larks are one of the only species of bird that can sing while flying, and thus, represent cheerfulness and joy. In this way, much like the poppies, larks are an optimistic symbol that life is triumphant. In mythology and literature, larks also represent daybreak. This is of great importance, as ANZAC poetry is often situated during the early hours of the day, symbolizing change and promise.
Torch and Lamp
Torches and lamps are powerful motifs that McCrae draws upon in a number of his poems, such as 'In Flanders Field' and 'The Warrior'. Torches and lamps symbolise guidance and illumination. In the context of McCrae's poetry, these images are also striking symbols of the ANZAC Spirit and the legacy of the brave soldiers, as it represents the light that their sacrifice has provided to the world. They are also symbolic of hope, in particular, hope for the future.
A number of McCrae's poems are set during dawn, the early hours of the morning. On a literal level, this reflects that soldiers were often woken before dawn, at the very beginning of a new day. We now commemorate this by holding dawn services for the fallen ANZAC soldiers. Furthermore, dawn symbolises rest and death. As well as this, dawn is also an optimistic symbol of new chances and possibilities, as it marks the end of one day and beginning of the future.
The cross is a recurrent symbol. While it represents death, it also has positive connotations, due to its biblical imagery. In this way, the cross also represents hope, love and an ultimate relief from suffering and pain, as the cross (crucifix) is associated with Jesus' triumph over death.
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It is very fair to say that soldiers sacrifice their lives for their country. WW1, the tome of the poem, was especially deadly for allied forces like Canada and Britain. Germany also suffered heavy losses.