Kelley Roberts

English AP 12
Period 5
Poem Explication
“In Flanders Fields” Poem Explication
In the poem “In Flanders Fields”, Colonel John McCrae expresses the
solemnity concerning the soldiers that fought in The Great War (World War I). He
seems to do this by utilizing different techniques to make the reader feel a certain
way. He did a really great job of conveying how the deceased soldiers felt about the
whole situation and what they wished the remaining soldiers to do. In addition to
this, Colonel McCrae uses literary devices to represent the fallen soldiers and also to
explain to the remaining soldiers that they need to carry on despite hardships.
In lines 1-3, Colonel McCrae uses poppies and crosses to set the tone for the
poem. He begins by saying that the poppies are blowing “between the crosses, row
on row”. McCrae may have chosen to incorporate both the poppies and the crosses
because the poppies are so free flowing compared to the crosses which are straight,
all lined up, and virtually unmovable. McCrae may have created this metaphor and
used the crosses to show how harsh and definite death is. Poppies are also a super
bright red color and could signify the blood of fallen soldiers. In that case, it is
extremely ironic that something so beautiful grew out of a place where so much
blood had been spilt. This in turn may create sort of memory for the people who
have lost their loved ones in the war whenever they see poppies. All of these
elements that McCrae uses in the first few lines create a somber mood and tone for
the rest of the poem to help the readers realize just how real everything was at that
time.

Kelley Roberts
English AP 12
Period 5
Poem Explication
Lines 3-4 also help to set the tone of the poem further but in a slightly
different way. By using words such as crosses, bravely, and guns, McCrae
perpetuates the sadness that he and other soldiers felt at this time. McCrae also
begins to talk about the larks that can barely be heard over the guns and bombs
below them (line 4). A lark is a bird that can also sing while it is flying. I believe that
the lark’s singing is a symbol of freedom and joy. While larks are singing in the sky,
soldiers are risking their lives and doing anything they can to protect their country.
The soldiers are not able to experience the joy that the singing brings them because
since they have been involved in the war, all they have known is the sounds of guns
and other weapons. With McCrae mentioning the larks in the sky and introducing
what is happening below them, it creates quite a contrast between the peaceful sky
and the chaotic ground, adding to the mournful tone of the poem.
Lines 6-9 help to give “life” to the fallen soldiers and help to provoke feelings
of sympathy for the soldiers. In line 6, the word “Dead” is capitalized meaning that
the death that they are referring to could actually be the fallen soldiers. It then
becomes clearer that McCrae may have done this so that the dead would be able to
explain how they felt about everything. The fact that McCrae writes “short days
ago” signals to the fact that the soldiers have not been gone for long and that
something might have happened to them quickly (such as a gunshot or blast). He
also could have used those words to signify that they still knew what it was like to
know all of those things and that it was all suddenly over. In addition to that,
McCrae uses words to describe that the men had wonderful lives so far. They had
“loved and been loved” and they had watched the sun set. The fact that they had

Kelley Roberts
English AP 12
Period 5
Poem Explication
so much to live for and now it was gone in a flash is quite sad. McCrae probably
wanted the readers to feel the pain that the soldiers felt and saw and to know that
they were taken way too soon.
Lines 10-15 deliver the message of the poem through symbols and basically a
command. These lines seem as though they are more passionate and more thoughtprovoking because the soldiers are basically commanding other people to do
something because of what they feel is right based on what they have been
through. While the other stanzas are more about what the fallen soldiers have
experienced, the last stanza expresses what the fallen soldiers want to see. It is
basically expressing the message of how the fallen soldiers hope and wish that the
soldiers that remain carry on the “torch”. The torch represents everything that they
stand for and they want to make sure that they continue doing that so that America
can snatch the victory. The light represents the desire and devotion that they had to
the greater cause. He also may have intended these stanzas to show that these
soldiers should not be forgotten, no matter what. This is apparent in lines 13-14
when McCrae writes that they “shall not sleep”. They risked their lives to protect
others and they feel that their service should be remembered and not thrown away.
The poppies make another appearance in lines 14-15 where they kind of
change their motif. The poppies in these lines are being related to slumber. Poppies
do have a drowsing effect on humans. Since these poppies are being related to
sleep, they could also be connected to death. Often times death is called sleep
which could relate to the death of the soldiers. Although the soldiers have died

Kelley Roberts
English AP 12
Period 5
Poem Explication
there (poppies), they should still be remembered because of what they did. The
poppies are always going to grow there and symbolize those lost and because of
this, they will never be forgotten.
“In Flanders Fields” is chocked full of meaningful ideas that really portray how
the fallen soldiers may have felt. McCrae uses plenty of devices and thoughtprovoking details in this poem to make sure that the reader is able to piece the
puzzle together themselves. Because this poem is so meaningful, it has been
shared for many years to help remember the fallen soldiers who gave their lives.
McCrae wanted people to feel the raw emotions that he, the fallen soldiers, and
others felt and he hit it right on the dot. For many, many years now, paper poppies
have been made by veterans to remember the fallen men and women and their
sacrifices.