Poppies of the Field
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.
Thus begins the poem In Flanders Fields written by Lt. Col. John McCrae, MD (1872-1918) Canadian Army. The poem has endured for nearly 100 years and is as meaningful today as it was for the army surgeon who wrote it while watching wild poppies in a Belgium field gently blow in a breeze near the grave of a young friend and student killed by a shell burst and recently laid to rest.
Flowers have special symbols and meanings. Poppies can represent fidelity between lovers, rest and repose. The ancient Greeks symbolize Morpheus god of dreams with the poppy. You may recall in the movie The Wizard of Oz the Wicked Witch of the West conjures a poppy field to deter the four friends from reaching the Emerald City by having them fall asleep until Good Witch Glinda conjures a gentle snowfall to wake them up.
Today the red poppy flower is proudly worn to honor the men and women who sacrificed their lives for their country. The Veteran’s of Foreign Wars conducted its nationwide distribution of poppies prior to Memorial Day 1922. Soon the poppy was adopted as the official memorial flower of the VFW and the assembling of the artificial poppies provided steadfast work for disabled veterans at the Buddy Poppy factory in Pittsburgh. Today the poppies are assembled by veterans working out of VA hospitals.
Prior to WWI a certain poppy quilt was already popular. Quilt designer Marie Webster of Marion, Indiana, whose home is now the Quilters Hall of fame started designing quilts in her fifties. Her appliqué poppy quilt pattern was featured in the January 1912 issue of the “Ladies Home Journal”. This pattern can now be found in the book “A Joy Forever” by Marie’s granddaughter Rosalind Perry and Marty Frolli.
From the creative mind and hands of a quilt designer to the bloody fields of WWI six years later the poppy’s history of inspiring beauty and sparking a campaign endures. What homage to this lowly wild field flower!
Lois Eubank is the owner of Born Again Quilts restoration studio and gallery located at 4005 South Wayne Ave.