Le jour du Souvenir

Poppy field

Field of poppies in the Vaucluse (photo taken last Spring).

Remerciements to "Intuit" who left a comment* yesterday that inspired the following post.

jour du Souvenir (joor-deuh-soov-neer) noun, masculine

  : Remembrance Day, November 11th, Armistice Day, Veterans Day, Poppy Day

The following is Jean Pariseau's translation of the famous war remembrance poem, In Flanders Fields, by Canadian Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae. McCraie, a field surgeon during the First World War, wrote the poem after seeing his friend killed during the Second Battle of Ypres.



Flanders fields

  Au champ d'honneur

Au champ d'honneur, les coquelicots
Sont parsemés de lot en lot
Auprès des croix; et dans l'espace
Les alouettes devenues lasses
Mêlent leurs chants au sifflement
Des obusiers.

Nous sommes morts,
Nous qui songions la veille encor'
À nos parents, à nos amis,
C'est nous qui reposons ici,
Au champ d'honneur.

À vous jeunes désabusés,
À vous de porter l'oriflamme
Et de garder au fond de l'âme
Le goût de vivre en liberté.
Acceptez le défi, sinon
Les coquelicots se faneront
Au champ d'honneur.

*Read the English version and learn more about this poem...
Comments, corrections, and suggestions welcome here.

Here is Intuit's comment, which led me to the poem:

"There's another flower of Autumn, the humble Flanders Poppy, special international symbol of remembrance of The Great War.

[On November 11th], France will celebrate Armistice Day, 90th year anniversary.

The poppy of wartime remembrance is the red corn poppy, Papaver rhoeas, a common weed of Europe. The red poppy was one of the few plants that grew on the Western Front; its seeds wait patiently for years, for disturbance and cool weather - conditions well met in the soil of intensively-shelled battlefields of France.


World War I catalyzed important technological innovations that changed forever the patterns of daily life and urban landscape - an era we call 'The Modern Age'.

The battlefields of France continue to disgorge an ungodly crop: soldierly remains, rusting guns, spent and still-dangerous live munitions, and personal effluvia of military life in the trenches.

It is good to think on the significance of the humble red poppy and all that it portends, when lives and lands are permanently altered through disturbance."

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Jennifer in OR

Thanks for the post. I loved the photo of the poppy field. My mom remembers making red poppies out of paper as a child, to honor soldiers. Her dad (my grandpa) fought in WWI and was in France. When I visited France, by far the most moving experience was standing on the beaches in Normandy and visiting the American Cemetery there.


Hello all - just love Kristin's Blog, don't you?
I used to live at an ancient house in Brisbane, and poppies came up in the garden every spring. The dear lady who owned the house - long dead now - told me that when one of her relatives - wish I'd paid more attention to the details - came back from WWI in France, the family he billeted with there had filled his pockets with Flanders poppy seeds, which he planted. It's a lovely story, and I hope it's true, and that those lovely red poppies are still blooming there at Teneriffe House.

Morton K. Brussel

I agree with Paul Fussel's criticism of this poem, i.e., that its last paragraph acts as a recruitment effort that belies the sadness invoked earlier.


Salut, great post and a great picture. Last year, when I was in France for the Rugby World Cup, I had a chance to go to the Ardennes, where I have a friend who lives near St. Diziers. Patrick took me to Verdun, which was my first time there. It's a very beautiful, yet melancholy place around Verdun. It's a very sobering thing to go to the Ossuary, were you have the bones of thousands of unknown French and German troops intermingled. I also had a chance to go to the American Cemetery near Verdun. One of the things that I never forgot was seeing the cross marking the gravesite of an American soldier that was dated 10 November, 1918-they day before the armistice was signed. One day too late for this poor soldier and his family. As an Air Force and Army Reserve veteran, Veteran's day is very much a day of quiet reflection for me. It's kind of a reality check before the fun of Thanksgiving and Christmas.


My husband and I were in Normandy a year after 9/11. We visited the American cemetery and as we viewed the crosses I was surprised to see that they were not all crosses but there were stones with the Jewish star. You never see these in pictures (at least I never did). Then as you look closer you see names of men and women. There were both men and women and difference races and religions who fought so bravely so that freedom would triumph. Then we went to another cemetery, which we realized was the German cemetery. The amazing thing here was all of the letters saying that they hoped that there would never be another war, that everyone has suffered and we need to learn to live together. There wasn't a dry eye in the place.
After that we went to Caen, to the Peace Museum. This is a place everyone should visit. It is so powerful! You come away hoping, wishing that some day peace will come to the world.

Marika Ujvari

Flanders poppies (Papaver Rhoeas) are also my favorite flowers. Too bad it isn't growing wild here in Colorado, like it does in France and Hungary.


Thanks for the lovely photos Kristin, I am currently working in Seattle and so miss the my home in Provence, this was a lovely reminder of the poppy photos I took myself last year! Merci!


Smokey in a field of poppies: Don't hurry, don't worry, and don't forget to smell the flowers along the way. This IS Smokey R Dokey all over, isn't it? I loved the photos! Thank you, Kristin!!! (PS: Do you think it's the least bit possible that the pollen from poppies gives Smokey a little psychological "lift?")

Sandra Vanw

Bonjour Kristi and everyone...
I so love the poppies scattered in fields and along the country roads of France. Even in Kosova where I worked, I recall a beautiful field of the bright red flowers one Spring.
Happy and poignant as Kristi points out.
Happy May Day. We will be there in June and hopefully staying on for the year by Fall if not summer. How lovely it would be to join you under the Mulberry tree then for a glass of rouge-bleu at last!
Best wishes with the new book.


Your posts are always a bright spot in the day. I hope you can put some color pictures in your next book (I know it's expensive) but your colors are so enlivening...Best wishes from Redondo Beach

Sarah LaBelle near Chicago

Now I know that the corn poppy is not the same as the poppy cultivated for drug making.

That link to corn poppy in Intuit's comment makes it clear.

And I know why the fake poppies, distributed in my younger days in Nov 11 for a charitable donation, looked as they did, following the shape of this "agricultural weed", the flower that grows in disturbed soils.

Llyndda ap Adam Kesler

I remember as a girl giving money to old men who looked worn and sad and poorly dressed. They gave me, in return, sad, red, crepe-paper corn poppies which seemed to disappear. I always thought how important this was for me to do yet I never knew why until I just read your post. Thank you.
I wasn't born until 1944; my father was a ship's surgeon for two troop transport ships in the South Pacific. I love the idea and your photograph of the poppies...and how they grew, like blood, from the "disturbed Earth."
I wonder what was born from the disturbed Sea?

Suzi Hodgson, Lima Mt

The very first poem I ever memorized.(In the seventh grade.)Every time a see a red poppy, the words still pop into my mind.
I spent last Memorial day in Washington
D.C.we visited all the Veterans memorials there.I could not walk the whole Vietnam wall.Emotion over came me...all those fine young men.My heart was sore from thinking about all the sacrifice made that we can live our lives as we want.Freedom the cost is high. We should never forget!

Vivian Langley

Thanks. Always a day of memories and thanksgiving. My brother and only sibling was a suvivor of the Bataan Death March and 3 1/2 years a prisoner of the Japanese. Vive La France, la Belle France.

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