Poetry: In Flanders Fields

As we head into the Memorial Day weekend, I remembered a poem from childhood. First asked my mother about it when I was a small child in Chicago and saw WWI Vets selling paper poppies.

Envelope with stamps honoring Moina Michael, Athens, Georgia, 1948. Moina Belle Michael was a United States professor and humanitarian, known as the “Poppy Lady” for conceiving the idea of using poppies as a symbol of remembrance for those who served in World War I. In 1948, four years after her death, the U.S. Postal Service issued a commemorative stamp honoring her life’s achievement.

In Flanders Fields

By John McCrae
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.


The Met has a post worth reading,
In Flanders Fields, 100 Years Later: Comprehending the Incomprehensible, and a lithograph from 1918.

The Mother of the Father of the World Wide Web

The web’s grandparents, Mary Lee and Conway Berners-Lee.

The British Library’s Sound and vision blog has a nice piece on Mary Lee Berners-Lee, mother of Tim, who as everybody knows wrote the first spec for what became the World Wide Web, while working at CERN in the late 1980s.

” After studying mathematics at the University of Birmingham, she [MLBL] spent the latter part of the Second World War working at the Telecommunications Research Establish (TRE), the secret centre of Britain’s radar development effort. With the war over she returned to her studies, before leaving Britain for the Mount Stromlo observatory in Australia in 1947, where she worked classifying the spectra of stars. In 1951 she returned to Britain and chanced across an advert for a job at Ferranti in Manchester that would change her life: “I was reading Nature and saw an advertisement one day for – saying, ‘Mathematicians wanted to work on a digital computer.’”

One of many “voices of science” in the Library holdings.

Remembering Words

It’s often asked whether we are still fighting the Civil War (“The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”–Faulkner), but I also wonder whether we are in some way still fighting the Vietnam War, or at least contesting its legacy. People who were alive at the time came together this weekend at “Lessons of Vietnam” with a goal of extending the conversation and complicating the “official” versions of the history.

From their website, “This effort began last fall in reaction to the Pentagon’s plans for their own commemoration, including extensive public outreach and a false and one-sided website history of the Vietnam War that excluded the peace movement. The New York Times reported our objections on its front page. While former presidents and Pentagon officials seek to obscure the memory of what we accomplished, we will keep pushing for an accurate history of both the Vietnam War and one of our country’s most important social movements.”

Hoping that a film will come out of, and more resources for teaching. It’s not a period to forget (or to reflect on in a one-dimensional way).

We’re a few years’ shy of the 50th anniversary of the DNC in Chicago. Another embattled history.


More and Cromwell


WaMoretching the terrific adaptation of Hilary Mantel’s “Wolf Hall” on Masterpiece and enjoyed the visual reference to  the Holbein portrait of Thomas Cromwell (even sitting for a portrait comes with a bit of pointed political intrigue in this take on the story).

The painting itself hangs in the Frick, and is paired with that of Thomas More by the same artist. Both Anton Lesser who plays More and the dazzling Mark Rylance, the Cromwell, evoke the characters in these paintings to an extraordinary degree, a conversation about representation of history that continues.

It’s also interesting to consider the conversation between Mantel’s telling of the Thomas More story and the beloved (if now sort of 1960s ) version in A Man for All Seasons. A great feast for lovers of fine acting of an earlier era.

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