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´╗┐Title: In Flanders Fields and Other Poems
Author: McCrae, John, 1872-1918
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "In Flanders Fields and Other Poems" ***

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by John McCrae

[Canadian Poet, 1872-1918]

With an Essay in Character by Sir Andrew Macphail

[This text is taken from the New York edition of 1919.]

[Note on text: Italicized stanzas are indented 5 spaces. Italicized
words or phrases are capitalized. Some slight errors have been


John McCrae, physician, soldier, and poet, died in France a
Lieutenant-Colonel with the Canadian forces.

The poem which gives this collection of his lovely verse its name has
been extensively reprinted, and received with unusual enthusiasm.

The volume contains, as well, a striking essay in character by his
friend, Sir Andrew Macphail.


{Although the poem itself is included shortly, this next section is
included for completeness, and to show John McCrae's punctuation -- also
to show that I'm not the only one who forgets lines. -- A. L.}


          In Flanders fields the poppies grow
          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.

                                John McCrae

{From a} Facsimile of an autograph copy of the poem "In Flanders Fields"

This was probably written from memory as "grow" is used in place of
"blow" in the first line.


     In Flanders Fields

     The Anxious Dead

     The Warrior


     The Unconquered Dead

     The Captain

     The Song of the Derelict


     Then and Now


     The Hope of My Heart


     Slumber Songs

     The Oldest Drama


     Mine Host




     The Dead Master

     The Harvest of the Sea

     The Dying of Pere Pierre


     Upon Watts' Picture "Sic Transit"

     A Song of Comfort

     The Pilgrims

     The Shadow of the Cross

     The Night Cometh

     In Due Season

     John McCrae
       An Essay in Character by Sir Andrew Macphail

In Flanders Fields

          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 Anxious Dead

          O guns, fall silent till the dead men hear
           Above their heads the legions pressing on:
          (These fought their fight in time of bitter fear,
           And died not knowing how the day had gone.)

          O flashing muzzles, pause, and let them see
           The coming dawn that streaks the sky afar;
          Then let your mighty chorus witness be
           To them, and Caesar, that we still make war.

          Tell them, O guns, that we have heard their call,
           That we have sworn, and will not turn aside,
          That we will onward till we win or fall,
           That we will keep the faith for which they died.

          Bid them be patient, and some day, anon,
           They shall feel earth enwrapt in silence deep;
          Shall greet, in wonderment, the quiet dawn,
           And in content may turn them to their sleep.

The Warrior

          He wrought in poverty, the dull grey days,
           But with the night his little lamp-lit room
          Was bright with battle flame, or through a haze
           Of smoke that stung his eyes he heard the boom
          Of Bluecher's guns; he shared Almeida's scars,
           And from the close-packed deck, about to die,
          Looked up and saw the "Birkenhead"'s tall spars
           Weave wavering lines across the Southern sky:

          Or in the stifling 'tween decks, row on row,
           At Aboukir, saw how the dead men lay;
            Charged with the fiercest in Busaco's strife,
          Brave dreams are his -- the flick'ring lamp burns low --
           Yet couraged for the battles of the day
            He goes to stand full face to face with life.


               _Scarlet coats, and crash o' the band,
                The grey of a pauper's gown,
               A soldier's grave in Zululand,
                And a woman in Brecon Town._

          My little lad for a soldier boy,
           (Mothers o' Brecon Town!)
          My eyes for tears and his for joy
           When he went from Brecon Town,
          His for the flags and the gallant sights
          His for the medals and his for the fights,
          And mine for the dreary, rainy nights
           At home in Brecon Town.

          They say he's laid beneath a tree,
           (Come back to Brecon Town!)
          Shouldn't I know? --  I was there to see:
           (It's far to Brecon Town!)
          It's me that keeps it trim and drest
          With a briar there and a rose by his breast --
          The English flowers he likes the best
           That I bring from Brecon Town.

          And I sit beside him -- him and me,
           (We're back to Brecon Town.)
          To talk of the things that used to be
           (Grey ghosts of Brecon Town);
          I know the look o' the land and sky,
          And the bird that builds in the tree near by,
          And times I hear the jackals cry,
           And me in Brecon Town.

               _Golden grey on miles of sand
                The dawn comes creeping down;
               It's day in far off Zululand
                And night in Brecon Town._

The Unconquered Dead

               ". . . defeated, with great loss."

          Not we the conquered!  Not to us the blame
           Of them that flee, of them that basely yield;
          Nor ours the shout of victory, the fame
           Of them that vanquish in a stricken field.

          That day of battle in the dusty heat
           We lay and heard the bullets swish and sing
          Like scythes amid the over-ripened wheat,
           And we the harvest of their garnering.

          Some yielded, No, not we!  Not we, we swear
           By these our wounds; this trench upon the hill
          Where all the shell-strewn earth is seamed and bare,
           Was ours to keep; and lo! we have it still.

          We might have yielded, even we, but death
           Came for our helper; like a sudden flood
          The crashing darkness fell; our painful breath
           We drew with gasps amid the choking blood.

          The roar fell faint and farther off, and soon
           Sank to a foolish humming in our ears,
          Like crickets in the long, hot afternoon
           Among the wheat fields of the olden years.

          Before our eyes a boundless wall of red
           Shot through by sudden streaks of jagged pain!
          Then a slow-gathering darkness overhead
           And rest came on us like a quiet rain.

          Not we the conquered!  Not to us the shame,
           Who hold our earthen ramparts, nor shall cease
          To hold them ever; victors we, who came
           In that fierce moment to our honoured peace.

The Captain


               _Here all the day she swings from tide to tide,
                Here all night long she tugs a rusted chain,
               A masterless hulk that was a ship of pride,
                Yet unashamed:  her memories remain._

          It was Nelson in the 'Captain', Cape St. Vincent far alee,
           With the 'Vanguard' leading s'uth'ard in the haze --
          Little Jervis and the Spaniards and the fight that was to be,
          Twenty-seven Spanish battleships, great bullies of the sea,
           And the 'Captain' there to find her day of days.

          Right into them the 'Vanguard' leads, but with a sudden tack
           The Spaniards double swiftly on their trail;
          Now Jervis overshoots his mark, like some too eager pack,
          He will not overtake them, haste he e'er so greatly back,
           But Nelson and the 'Captain' will not fail.

          Like a tigress on her quarry leaps the 'Captain' from her place,
           To lie across the fleeing squadron's way:
          Heavy odds and heavy onslaught, gun to gun and face to face,
          Win the ship a name of glory, win the men a death of grace,
           For a little hold the Spanish fleet in play.

          Ended now the "Captain"'s battle, stricken sore she falls aside
           Holding still her foemen, beaten to the knee:
          As the 'Vanguard' drifted past her, "Well done, 'Captain'," Jervis cried,
          Rang the cheers of men that conquered, ran the blood of men that died,
           And the ship had won her immortality.

               _Lo! here her progeny of steel and steam,
                A funnelled monster at her mooring swings:
               Still, in our hearts, we see her pennant stream,
                And "Well done, 'Captain'," like a trumpet rings._

The Song of the Derelict

          Ye have sung me your songs, ye have chanted your rimes
           (I scorn your beguiling, O sea!)
          Ye fondle me now, but to strike me betimes.
           (A treacherous lover, the sea!)
          Once I saw as I lay, half-awash in the night
          A hull in the gloom -- a quick hail -- and a light
          And I lurched o'er to leeward and saved her for spite
           From the doom that ye meted to me.

          I was sister to 'Terrible', seventy-four,
           (Yo ho! for the swing of the sea!)
          And ye sank her in fathoms a thousand or more
           (Alas! for the might of the sea!)
          Ye taunt me and sing me her fate for a sign!
          What harm can ye wreak more on me or on mine?
          Ho braggart!  I care not for boasting of thine --
           A fig for the wrath of the sea!

          Some night to the lee of the land I shall steal,
           (Heigh-ho to be home from the sea!)
          No pilot but Death at the rudderless wheel,
           (None knoweth the harbor as he!)
          To lie where the slow tide creeps hither and fro
          And the shifting sand laps me around, for I know
          That my gallant old crew are in Port long ago --
           For ever at peace with the sea!



          Of old, like Helen, guerdon of the strong --
           Like Helen fair, like Helen light of word, --
          "The spoils unto the conquerors belong.
           Who winneth me must win me by the sword."

          Grown old, like Helen, once the jealous prize
           That strong men battled for in savage hate,
          Can she look forth with unregretful eyes,
           Where sleep Montcalm and Wolfe beside her gate?

Then and Now

          Beneath her window in the fragrant night
           I half forget how truant years have flown
          Since I looked up to see her chamber-light,
           Or catch, perchance, her slender shadow thrown
          Upon the casement; but the nodding leaves
           Sweep lazily across the unlit pane,
          And to and fro beneath the shadowy eaves,
           Like restless birds, the breath of coming rain
          Creeps, lilac-laden, up the village street
           When all is still, as if the very trees
          Were listening for the coming of her feet
           That come no more; yet, lest I weep, the breeze
          Sings some forgotten song of those old years
          Until my heart grows far too glad for tears.


          Amid my books I lived the hurrying years,
           Disdaining kinship with my fellow man;
          Alike to me were human smiles and tears,
           I cared not whither Earth's great life-stream ran,
          Till as I knelt before my mouldered shrine,
           God made me look into a woman's eyes;
          And I, who thought all earthly wisdom mine,
           Knew in a moment that the eternal skies
          Were measured but in inches, to the quest
           That lay before me in that mystic gaze.
          "Surely I have been errant:  it is best
           That I should tread, with men their human ways."
          God took the teacher, ere the task was learned,
          And to my lonely books again I turned.

The Hope of My Heart

          "Delicta juventutis et ignorantius ejus,
                  quoesumus ne memineris, Domine."

          I left, to earth, a little maiden fair,
           With locks of gold, and eyes that shamed the light;
          I prayed that God might have her in His care
                      And sight.

          Earth's love was false; her voice, a siren's song;
           (Sweet mother-earth was but a lying name)
          The path she showed was but the path of wrong
                      And shame.

          "Cast her not out!" I cry.  God's kind words come --
           "Her future is with Me, as was her past;
          It shall be My good will to bring her home
                      At last."


          My lover died a century ago,
          Her dear heart stricken by my sland'rous breath,
          Wherefore the Gods forbade that I should know
                      The peace of death.

          Men pass my grave, and say, "'Twere well to sleep,
          Like such an one, amid the uncaring dead!"
          How should they know the vigils that I keep,
                      The tears I shed?

          Upon the grave, I count with lifeless breath,
          Each night, each year, the flowers that bloom and die,
          Deeming the leaves, that fall to dreamless death,
                      More blest than I.

          'Twas just last year -- I heard two lovers pass
          So near, I caught the tender words he said:
          To-night the rain-drenched breezes sway the grass
                      Above his head.

          That night full envious of his life was I,
          That youth and love should stand at his behest;
          To-night, I envy him, that he should lie
                      At utter rest.

Slumber Songs


          Sleep, little eyes
          That brim with childish tears amid thy play,
          Be comforted!  No grief of night can weigh
          Against the joys that throng thy coming day.

          Sleep, little heart!
          There is no place in Slumberland for tears:
          Life soon enough will bring its chilling fears
          And sorrows that will dim the after years.
          Sleep, little heart!


          Ah, little eyes
          Dead blossoms of a springtime long ago,
          That life's storm crushed and left to lie below
          The benediction of the falling snow!

          Sleep, little heart
          That ceased so long ago its frantic beat!
          The years that come and go with silent feet
          Have naught to tell save this -- that rest is sweet.
          Dear little heart.

The Oldest Drama

               _"It fell on a day, that he went out to his father to the reapers.
               And he said unto his father, My head, my head.  And he said to a lad,
               Carry him to his mother.  And . . . he sat on her knees till noon,
               and then died.  And she went up, and laid him on the bed. . . .
               And shut the door upon him and went out."_

          Immortal story that no mother's heart
           Ev'n yet can read, nor feel the biting pain
          That rent her soul!  Immortal not by art
           Which makes a long past sorrow sting again

          Like grief of yesterday:  but since it said
           In simplest word the truth which all may see,
          Where any mother sobs above her dead
           And plays anew the silent tragedy.


          I saw two sowers in Life's field at morn,
           To whom came one in angel guise and said,
          "Is it for labour that a man is born?
           Lo:  I am Ease.  Come ye and eat my bread!"
          Then gladly one forsook his task undone
           And with the Tempter went his slothful way,
          The other toiled until the setting sun
           With stealing shadows blurred the dusty day.

          Ere harvest time, upon earth's peaceful breast
           Each laid him down among the unreaping dead.
          "Labour hath other recompense than rest,
           Else were the toiler like the fool," I said;
          "God meteth him not less, but rather more
          Because he sowed and others reaped his store."

Mine Host

          There stands a hostel by a travelled way;
           Life is the road and Death the worthy host;
          Each guest he greets, nor ever lacks to say,
           "How have ye fared?"  They answer him, the most,
          "This lodging place is other than we sought;
           We had intended farther, but the gloom
          Came on apace, and found us ere we thought:
           Yet will we lodge.  Thou hast abundant room."

          Within sit haggard men that speak no word,
           No fire gleams their cheerful welcome shed;
          No voice of fellowship or strife is heard
           But silence of a multitude of dead.
          "Naught can I offer ye," quoth Death, "but rest!"
          And to his chamber leads each tired guest.


          I saw a King, who spent his life to weave
           Into a nation all his great heart thought,
          Unsatisfied until he should achieve
           The grand ideal that his manhood sought;
          Yet as he saw the end within his reach,
           Death took the sceptre from his failing hand,
          And all men said, "He gave his life to teach
           The task of honour to a sordid land!"
          Within his gates I saw, through all those years,
           One at his humble toil with cheery face,
          Whom (being dead) the children, half in tears,
           Remembered oft, and missed him from his place.
          If he be greater that his people blessed
          Than he the children loved, God knoweth best.


          I saw a city filled with lust and shame,
           Where men, like wolves, slunk through the grim half-light;
          And sudden, in the midst of it, there came
           One who spoke boldly for the cause of Right.

          And speaking, fell before that brutish race
           Like some poor wren that shrieking eagles tear,
          While brute Dishonour, with her bloodless face
           Stood by and smote his lips that moved in prayer.

          "Speak not of God!  In centuries that word
           Hath not been uttered!  Our own king are we."
          And God stretched forth his finger as He heard
           And o'er it cast a thousand leagues of sea.


          One spake amid the nations, "Let us cease
           From darkening with strife the fair World's light,
          We who are great in war be great in peace.
           No longer let us plead the cause by might."

          But from a million British graves took birth
           A silent voice -- the million spake as one --
          "If ye have righted all the wrongs of earth
           Lay by the sword!  Its work and ours is done."

The Dead Master

          Amid earth's vagrant noises, he caught the note sublime:
          To-day around him surges from the silences of Time
          A flood of nobler music, like a river deep and broad,
          Fit song for heroes gathered in the banquet-hall of God.

The Harvest of the Sea

          The earth grows white with harvest; all day long
           The sickles gleam, until the darkness weaves
          Her web of silence o'er the thankful song
           Of reapers bringing home the golden sheaves.

          The wave tops whiten on the sea fields drear,
           And men go forth at haggard dawn to reap;
          But ever 'mid the gleaners' song we hear
           The half-hushed sobbing of the hearts that weep.

The Dying of Pere Pierre

               ". . . with two other priests; the same night he died,
               and was buried by the shores of the lake that bears his name."

          "Nay, grieve not that ye can no honour give
           To these poor bones that presently must be
          But carrion; since I have sought to live
           Upon God's earth, as He hath guided me,
          I shall not lack!  Where would ye have me lie?
           High heaven is higher than cathedral nave:
          Do men paint chancels fairer than the sky?"
           Beside the darkened lake they made his grave,
          Below the altar of the hills; and night
           Swung incense clouds of mist in creeping lines
          That twisted through the tree-trunks, where the light
           Groped through the arches of the silent pines:
          And he, beside the lonely path he trod,
          Lay, tombed in splendour, in the House of God.


          The day is past and the toilers cease;
          The land grows dim 'mid the shadows grey,
          And hearts are glad, for the dark brings peace
                      At the close of day.

          Each weary toiler, with lingering pace,
          As he homeward turns, with the long day done,
          Looks out to the west, with the light on his face
                      Of the setting sun.

          Yet some see not (with their sin-dimmed eyes)
          The promise of rest in the fading light;
          But the clouds loom dark in the angry skies
                      At the fall of night.

          And some see only a golden sky
          Where the elms their welcoming arms stretch wide
          To the calling rooks, as they homeward fly
                      At the eventide.

          It speaks of peace that comes after strife,
          Of the rest He sends to the hearts He tried,
          Of the calm that follows the stormiest life --
                      God's eventide.

Upon Watts' Picture "Sic Transit"

               _"What I spent I had; what I saved, I lost; what I gave, I have."_

          But yesterday the tourney, all the eager joy of life,
           The waving of the banners, and the rattle of the spears,
          The clash of sword and harness, and the madness of the strife;
           To-night begin the silence and the peace of endless years.

                    (One sings within.)

          But yesterday the glory and the prize,
           And best of all, to lay it at her feet,
          To find my guerdon in her speaking eyes:
           I grudge them not, -- they pass, albeit sweet.

          The ring of spears, the winning of the fight,
           The careless song, the cup, the love of friends,
          The earth in spring -- to live, to feel the light --
           'Twas good the while it lasted:  here it ends.

          Remain the well-wrought deed in honour done,
           The dole for Christ's dear sake, the words that fall
          In kindliness upon some outcast one, --
           They seemed so little:  now they are my All.

A Song of Comfort

               _"Sleep, weary ones, while ye may --
                   Sleep, oh, sleep!"_
                                        Eugene Field.

          Thro' May time blossoms, with whisper low,
          The soft wind sang to the dead below:
           "Think not with regret on the Springtime's song
           And the task ye left while your hands were strong.
           The song would have ceased when the Spring was past,
           And the task that was joyous be weary at last."

          To the winter sky when the nights were long
          The tree-tops tossed with a ceaseless song:
           "Do ye think with regret on the sunny days
           And the path ye left, with its untrod ways?
           The sun might sink in a storm cloud's frown
           And the path grow rough when the night came down."

          In the grey twilight of the autumn eves,
          It sighed as it sang through the dying leaves:
           "Ye think with regret that the world was bright,
           That your path was short and your task was light;
           The path, though short, was perhaps the best
           And the toil was sweet, that it led to rest."

The Pilgrims

          An uphill path, sun-gleams between the showers,
           Where every beam that broke the leaden sky
          Lit other hills with fairer ways than ours;
           Some clustered graves where half our memories lie;
          And one grim Shadow creeping ever nigh:
                      And this was Life.

          Wherein we did another's burden seek,
           The tired feet we helped upon the road,
          The hand we gave the weary and the weak,
           The miles we lightened one another's load,
          When, faint to falling, onward yet we strode:
                      This too was Life.

          Till, at the upland, as we turned to go
           Amid fair meadows, dusky in the night,
          The mists fell back upon the road below;
           Broke on our tired eyes the western light;
          The very graves were for a moment bright:
                      And this was Death.

The Shadow of the Cross

          At the drowsy dusk when the shadows creep
          From the golden west, where the sunbeams sleep,

          An angel mused:  "Is there good or ill
          In the mad world's heart, since on Calvary's hill

          'Round the cross a mid-day twilight fell
          That darkened earth and o'ershadowed hell?"

          Through the streets of a city the angel sped;
          Like an open scroll men's hearts he read.

          In a monarch's ear his courtiers lied
          And humble faces hid hearts of pride.

          Men's hate waxed hot, and their hearts grew cold,
          As they haggled and fought for the lust of gold.

          Despairing, he cried, "After all these years
          Is there naught but hatred and strife and tears?"

          He found two waifs in an attic bare;
          -- A single crust was their meagre fare --

          One strove to quiet the other's cries,
          And the love-light dawned in her famished eyes

          As she kissed the child with a motherly air:
          "I don't need mine, you can have my share."

          Then the angel knew that the earthly cross
          And the sorrow and shame were not wholly loss.

          At dawn, when hushed was earth's busy hum
          And men looked not for their Christ to come,

          From the attic poor to the palace grand,
          The King and the beggar went hand in hand.

The Night Cometh

          Cometh the night.  The wind falls low,
          The trees swing slowly to and fro:
           Around the church the headstones grey
           Cluster, like children strayed away
          But found again, and folded so.

          No chiding look doth she bestow:
          If she is glad, they cannot know;
           If ill or well they spend their day,
                      Cometh the night.

          Singing or sad, intent they go;
          They do not see the shadows grow;
           "There yet is time," they lightly say,
           "Before our work aside we lay";
          Their task is but half-done, and lo!
                      Cometh the night.

In Due Season

          If night should come and find me at my toil,
           When all Life's day I had, tho' faintly, wrought,
          And shallow furrows, cleft in stony soil
           Were all my labour:  Shall I count it naught

          If only one poor gleaner, weak of hand,
           Shall pick a scanty sheaf where I have sown?
          "Nay, for of thee the Master doth demand
           Thy work:  the harvest rests with Him alone."


An Essay in Character

by Sir Andrew Macphail

I. In Flanders Fields

"In Flanders Fields", the piece of verse from which this little book
takes its title, first appeared in 'Punch' in the issue of December
8th, 1915. At the time I was living in Flanders at a convent in front
of Locre, in shelter of Kemmel Hill, which lies seven miles south
and slightly west of Ypres. The piece bore no signature, but it was
unmistakably from the hand of John McCrae.

From this convent of women which was the headquarters of the 6th
Canadian Field Ambulance, I wrote to John McCrae, who was then at
Boulogne, accusing him of the authorship, and furnished him with
evidence. From memory--since at the front one carries one book only--I
quoted to him another piece of his own verse, entitled "The Night

    "Cometh the night.  The wind falls low,
     The trees swing slowly to and fro;
      Around the church the headstones grey
      Cluster, like children stray'd away,
     But found again, and folded so."

It will be observed at once by reference to the text that in form the
two poems are identical. They contain the same number of lines and
feet as surely as all sonnets do. Each travels upon two rhymes with the
members of a broken couplet in widely separated refrain. To the casual
reader this much is obvious, but there are many subtleties in the verse
which made the authorship inevitable. It was a form upon which he had
worked for years, and made his own. When the moment arrived the medium
was ready. No other medium could have so well conveyed the thought.

This familiarity with his verse was not a matter of accident. For many
years I was editor of the 'University Magazine', and those who are
curious about such things may discover that one half of the poems
contained in this little book were first published upon its pages. This
magazine had its origin in McGill University, Montreal, in the year
1902. Four years later its borders were enlarged to the wider term,
and it strove to express an educated opinion upon questions immediately
concerning Canada, and to treat freely in a literary way all matters
which have to do with politics, industry, philosophy, science, and art.

To this magazine during those years John McCrae contributed all his
verse. It was therefore not unseemly that I should have written to him,
when "In Flanders Fields" appeared in 'Punch'. Amongst his papers I find
my poor letter, and many others of which something more might be made if
one were concerned merely with the literary side of his life rather than
with his life itself. Two references will be enough. Early in 1905 he
offered "The Pilgrims" for publication. I notified him of the place
assigned to it in the magazine, and added a few words of appreciation,
and after all these years it has come back to me.

The letter is dated February 9th, 1905, and reads: "I place the poem
next to my own buffoonery. It is the real stuff of poetry. How did you
make it? What have you to do with medicine? I was charmed with it:
the thought high, the image perfect, the expression complete; not too
reticent, not too full. Videntes autem stellam gavisi sunt gaudio magno
valde. In our own tongue,--'slainte filidh'." To his mother he wrote,
"the Latin is translatable as, 'seeing the star they rejoiced with
exceeding gladness'." For the benefit of those whose education has
proceeded no further than the Latin, it may be explained that the two
last words mean, "Hail to the poet".

To the inexperienced there is something portentous about an appearance
in print and something mysterious about the business of an editor.
A legend has already grown up around the publication of "In Flanders
Fields" in 'Punch'. The truth is, "that the poem was offered in the
usual way and accepted; that is all." The usual way of offering a piece
to an editor is to put it in an envelope with a postage stamp outside to
carry it there, and a stamp inside to carry it back. Nothing else helps.

An editor is merely a man who knows his right hand from his left, good
from evil, having the honesty of a kitchen cook who will not spoil his
confection by favour for a friend. Fear of a foe is not a temptation,
since editors are too humble and harmless to have any. There are of
course certain slight offices which an editor can render, especially
to those whose writings he does not intend to print, but John McCrae
required none of these. His work was finished to the last point. He
would bring his piece in his hand and put it on the table. A wise editor
knows when to keep his mouth shut; but now I am free to say that he
never understood the nicety of the semi-colon, and his writing was too
heavily stopped.

He was not of those who might say,--take it or leave it; but
rather,--look how perfect it is; and it was so. Also he was the first
to recognize that an editor has some rights and prejudices, that certain
words make him sick; that certain other words he reserves for his own
use,--"meticulous" once a year, "adscititious" once in a life time.
This explains why editors write so little. In the end, out of mere good
nature, or seeing the futility of it all, they contribute their words to
contributors and write no more.

The volume of verse as here printed is small. The volume might be
enlarged; it would not be improved. To estimate the value and institute
a comparison of those herein set forth would be a congenial but useless
task, which may well be left to those whose profession it is to offer
instruction to the young. To say that "In Flanders Fields" is not the
best would involve one in controversy. It did give expression to a mood
which at the time was universal, and will remain as a permanent record
when the mood is passed away.

The poem was first called to my attention by a Sapper officer, then
Major, now Brigadier. He brought the paper in his hand from his billet
in Dranoutre. It was printed on page 468, and Mr. 'Punch' will be glad
to be told that, in his annual index, in the issue of December 29th,
1915, he has misspelled the author's name, which is perhaps the only
mistake he ever made. This officer could himself weave the sonnet with
deft fingers, and he pointed out many deep things. It is to the sappers
the army always goes for "technical material".

The poem, he explained, consists of thirteen lines in iambic tetrameter
and two lines of two iambics each; in all, one line more than the
sonnet's count. There are two rhymes only, since the short lines must
be considered blank, and are, in fact, identical. But it is a difficult
mode. It is true, he allowed, that the octet of the sonnet has only two
rhymes, but these recur only four times, and the liberty of the sestet
tempers its despotism,--which I thought a pretty phrase. He pointed
out the dangers inherent in a restricted rhyme, and cited the case of
Browning, the great rhymster, who was prone to resort to any rhyme, and
frequently ended in absurdity, finding it easier to make a new verse
than to make an end.

At great length--but the December evenings in Flanders are long, how
long, O Lord!--this Sapper officer demonstrated the skill with which the
rhymes are chosen. They are vocalized. Consonant endings would spoil the
whole effect. They reiterate O and I, not the O of pain and the Ay
of assent, but the O of wonder, of hope, of aspiration; and the I of
personal pride, of jealous immortality, of the Ego against the Universe.
They are, he went on to expound, a recurrence of the ancient question:
"How are the dead raised, and with what body do they come?" "How shall I
bear my light across?" and of the defiant cry: "If Christ be not raised,
then is our faith vain."

The theme has three phases: the first a calm, a deadly calm, opening
statement in five lines; the second in four lines, an explanation,
a regret, a reiteration of the first; the third, without preliminary
crescendo, breaking out into passionate adjuration in vivid metaphor, a
poignant appeal which is at once a blessing and a curse. In the closing
line is a satisfying return to the first phase,--and the thing is done.
One is so often reminded of the poverty of men's invention, their
best being so incomplete, their greatest so trivial, that one welcomes
what--this Sapper officer surmised--may become a new and fixed mode of
expression in verse.

As to the theme itself--I am using his words: what is his is mine; what
is mine is his--the interest is universal. The dead, still conscious,
fallen in a noble cause, see their graves overblown in a riot of poppy
bloom. The poppy is the emblem of sleep. The dead desire to sleep
undisturbed, but yet curiously take an interest in passing events. They
regret that they have not been permitted to live out their life to its
normal end. They call on the living to finish their task, else they
shall not sink into that complete repose which they desire, in spite
of the balm of the poppy. Formalists may protest that the poet is not
sincere, since it is the seed and not the flower that produces sleep.
They might as well object that the poet has no right to impersonate the
dead. We common folk know better. We know that in personating the dear
dead, and calling in bell-like tones on the inarticulate living, the
poet shall be enabled to break the lightnings of the Beast, and thereby
he, being himself, alas! dead, yet speaketh; and shall speak, to ones
and twos and a host. As it is written in resonant bronze: VIVOS . VOCO
. MORTUOS . PLANGO . FULGURA . FRANGO: words cast by this officer upon
a church bell which still rings in far away Orwell in memory of his
father--and of mine.

By this time the little room was cold. For some reason the guns had
awakened in the Salient. An Indian trooper who had just come up, and did
not yet know the orders, blew "Lights out",--on a cavalry trumpet.
The sappers work by night. The officer turned and went his way to his
accursed trenches, leaving the verse with me.

John McCrae witnessed only once the raw earth of Flanders hide its
shame in the warm scarlet glory of the poppy. Others have watched this
resurrection of the flowers in four successive seasons, a fresh miracle
every time it occurs. Also they have observed the rows of crosses
lengthen, the torch thrown, caught, and carried to victory. The dead may
sleep. We have not broken faith with them.

It is little wonder then that "In Flanders Fields" has become the poem
of the army. The soldiers have learned it with their hearts, which is
quite a different thing from committing it to memory. It circulates,
as a song should circulate, by the living word of mouth, not by printed
characters. That is the true test of poetry,--its insistence on making
itself learnt by heart. The army has varied the text; but each variation
only serves to reveal more clearly the mind of the maker. The army
says, "AMONG the crosses"; "felt dawn AND sunset glow"; "LIVED and were
loved". The army may be right: it usually is.

Nor has any piece of verse in recent years been more widely known in the
civilian world. It was used on every platform from which men were being
adjured to adventure their lives or their riches in the great trial
through which the present generation has passed. Many "replies" have
been made. The best I have seen was written in the 'New York Evening
Post'. None but those who were prepared to die before Vimy Ridge that
early April day of 1916 will ever feel fully the great truth of Mr.
Lillard's opening lines, as they speak for all Americans:

   "Rest ye in peace, ye Flanders dead.
    The fight that ye so bravely led
          We've taken up."

They did--and bravely. They heard the cry--"If ye break faith, we shall
not sleep."

II. With the Guns

If there was nothing remarkable about the publication of "In Flanders
Fields", there was something momentous in the moment of writing it.
And yet it was a sure instinct which prompted the writer to send it to
'Punch'. A rational man wishes to know the news of the world in which he
lives; and if he is interested in life, he is eager to know how men feel
and comport themselves amongst the events which are passing. For this
purpose 'Punch' is the great newspaper of the world, and these lines
describe better than any other how men felt in that great moment.

It was in April, 1915. The enemy was in the full cry of victory. All
that remained for him was to occupy Paris, as once he did before, and
to seize the Channel ports. Then France, England, and the world were
doomed. All winter the German had spent in repairing his plans, which
had gone somewhat awry on the Marne. He had devised his final stroke,
and it fell upon the Canadians at Ypres. This battle, known as the
second battle of Ypres, culminated on April 22nd, but it really extended
over the whole month.

The inner history of war is written from the recorded impressions of men
who have endured it. John McCrae in a series of letters to his mother,
cast in the form of a diary, has set down in words the impressions which
this event of the war made upon a peculiarly sensitive mind. The
account is here transcribed without any attempt at "amplification", or
"clarifying" by notes upon incidents or references to places. These are
only too well known.

Friday, April 23rd, 1915.

As we moved up last evening, there was heavy firing about 4.30 on our
left, the hour at which the general attack with gas was made when the
French line broke. We could see the shells bursting over Ypres, and in
a small village to our left, meeting General----, C.R.A., of one of
the divisions, he ordered us to halt for orders. We sent forward
notifications to our Headquarters, and sent out orderlies to get in
touch with the batteries of the farther forward brigades already in
action. The story of these guns will be read elsewhere. They had a tough
time, but got away safely, and did wonderful service. One battery fired
in two opposite directions at once, and both batteries fired at point
blank, open sights, at Germans in the open. They were at times quite
without infantry on their front, for their position was behind the
French to the left of the British line.

As we sat on the road we began to see the French stragglers--men without
arms, wounded men, teams, wagons, civilians, refugees--some by the
roads, some across country, all talking, shouting--the very picture of
debacle. I must say they were the "tag enders" of a fighting line rather
than the line itself. They streamed on, and shouted to us scraps of not
too inspiriting information while we stood and took our medicine, and
picked out gun positions in the fields in case we had to go in there
and then. The men were splendid; not a word; not a shake, and it was a
terrific test. Traffic whizzed by--ambulances, transport, ammunition,
supplies, despatch riders--and the shells thundered into the town, or
burst high in the air nearer us, and the refugees streamed. Women,
old men, little children, hopeless, tearful, quiet or excited, tired,
dodging the traffic,--and the wounded in singles or in groups. Here and
there I could give a momentary help, and the ambulances picked up as
they could. So the cold moonlight night wore on--no change save that the
towers of Ypres showed up against the glare of the city burning; and the
shells still sailed in.

At 9.30 our ammunition column (the part that had been "in") appeared.
Major---- had waited, like Casabianca, for orders until the Germans were
500 yards away; then he started, getting safely away save for one wagon
lost, and some casualties in men and horses. He found our column, and we
prepared to send forward ammunition as soon as we could learn where the
batteries had taken up position in retiring, for retire they had to.
Eleven, twelve, and finally grey day broke, and we still waited. At
3.45 word came to go in and support a French counterattack at 4.30 A.M.
Hastily we got the order spread; it was 4 A.M. and three miles to go.

Of one's feelings all this night--of the asphyxiated French soldiers--of
the women and children--of the cheery, steady British reinforcements
that moved up quietly past us, going up, not back--I could write, but
you can imagine.

We took the road at once, and went up at the gallop. The Colonel rode
ahead to scout a position (we had only four guns, part of the ammunition
column, and the brigade staff; the 1st and 4th batteries were back in
reserve at our last billet). Along the roads we went, and made our place
on time, pulled up for ten minutes just short of the position, where I
put Bonfire [his horse] with my groom in a farmyard, and went forward on
foot--only a quarter of a mile or so--then we advanced. Bonfire had soon
to move; a shell killed a horse about four yards away from him, and he
wisely took other ground. Meantime we went on into the position we were
to occupy for seventeen days, though we could not guess that. I can
hardly say more than that it was near the Yser Canal.

We got into action at once, under heavy gunfire. We were to the left
entirely of the British line, and behind French troops, and so we
remained for eight days. A Colonel of the R.A., known to fame, joined
us and camped with us; he was our link with the French Headquarters, and
was in local command of the guns in this locality. When he left us eight
days later he said, "I am glad to get out of this hell-hole." He was a
great comfort to us, for he is very capable, and the entire battle was
largely fought "on our own", following the requests of the Infantry on
our front, and scarcely guided by our own staff at all. We at once set
out to register our targets, and almost at once had to get into steady
firing on quite a large sector of front. We dug in the guns as quickly
as we could, and took as Headquarters some infantry trenches already
sunk on a ridge near the canal. We were subject from the first to a
steady and accurate shelling, for we were all but in sight, as were the
German trenches about 2000 yards to our front. At times the fire would
come in salvos quickly repeated. Bursts of fire would be made for ten
or fifteen minutes at a time. We got all varieties of projectile, from
3 inch to 8 inch, or perhaps 10 inch; the small ones usually as air
bursts, the larger percussion and air, and the heaviest percussion only.

My work began almost from the start--steady but never overwhelming,
except perhaps once for a few minutes. A little cottage behind our ridge
served as a cook-house, but was so heavily hit the second day that we
had to be chary of it. During bursts of fire I usually took the back
slope of the sharply crested ridge for what shelter it offered. At 3 our
1st and 4th arrived, and went into action at once a few hundred yards in
our rear. Wires were at once put out, to be cut by shells hundreds and
hundreds of times, but always repaired by our indefatigable linemen.
So the day wore on; in the night the shelling still kept up: three
different German attacks were made and repulsed. If we suffered by
being close up, the Germans suffered from us, for already tales of good
shooting came down to us. I got some sleep despite the constant firing,
for we had none last night.

Saturday, April 24th, 1915.

Behold us now anything less than two miles north of Ypres on the west
side of the canal; this runs north, each bank flanked with high elms,
with bare trunks of the familiar Netherlands type. A few yards to the
West a main road runs, likewise bordered; the Censor will allow me to
say that on the high bank between these we had our headquarters; the
ridge is perhaps fifteen to twenty feet high, and slopes forward fifty
yards to the water, the back is more steep, and slopes quickly to a
little subsidiary water way, deep but dirty. Where the guns were I shall
not say; but they were not far, and the German aeroplanes that viewed
us daily with all but impunity knew very well. A road crossed over
the canal, and interrupted the ridge; across the road from us was our
billet--the place we cooked in, at least, and where we usually took our
meals. Looking to the south between the trees, we could see the ruins
of the city: to the front on the sky line, with rolling ground in the
front, pitted by French trenches, the German lines; to the left front,
several farms and a windmill, and farther left, again near the canal,
thicker trees and more farms. The farms and windmills were soon burnt.
Several farms we used for observing posts were also quickly burnt during
the next three or four days. All along behind us at varying distances
French and British guns; the flashes at night lit up the sky.

These high trees were at once a protection and a danger. Shells that
struck them were usually destructive. When we came in the foliage was
still very thin. Along the road, which was constantly shelled "on spec"
by the Germans, one saw all the sights of war: wounded men limping
or carried, ambulances, trains of supply, troops, army mules, and
tragedies. I saw one bicycle orderly: a shell exploded and he seemed
to pedal on for eight or ten revolutions and then collapsed in a
heap--dead. Straggling soldiers would be killed or wounded, horses
also, until it got to be a nightmare. I used to shudder every time I
saw wagons or troops on that road. My dugout looked out on it. I got
a square hole, 8 by 8, dug in the side of the hill (west), roofed over
with remnants to keep out the rain, and a little sandbag parapet on
the back to prevent pieces of "back-kick shells" from coming in, or
prematures from our own or the French guns for that matter. Some straw
on the floor completed it. The ground was treacherous and a slip the
first night nearly buried----. So we had to be content with walls
straight up and down, and trust to the height of the bank for safety.
All places along the bank were more or less alike, all squirrel holes.

This morning we supported a heavy French attack at 4.30; there had
been three German attacks in the night, and everyone was tired. We
got heavily shelled. In all eight or ten of our trees were cut by
shells--cut right off, the upper part of the tree subsiding heavily and
straight down, as a usual thing. One would think a piece a foot long
was just instantly cut out; and these trees were about 18 inches in
diameter. The gas fumes came very heavily: some blew down from the
infantry trenches, some came from the shells: one's eyes smarted, and
breathing was very laboured. Up to noon to-day we fired 2500 rounds.
Last night Col. Morrison and I slept at a French Colonel's headquarters
near by, and in the night our room was filled up with wounded. I woke up
and shared my bed with a chap with "a wounded leg and a chill". Probably
thirty wounded were brought into the one little room.

Col.----, R.A., kept us in communication with the French General in
whose command we were. I bunked down in the trench on the top of the
ridge: the sky was red with the glare of the city still burning, and we
could hear the almost constant procession of large shells sailing over
from our left front into the city: the crashes of their explosion shook
the ground where we were. After a terribly hard day, professionally and
otherwise, I slept well, but it rained and the trench was awfully muddy
and wet.

Sunday, April 25th, 1915.

The weather brightened up, and we got at it again. This day we had
several heavy attacks, prefaced by heavy artillery fire; these bursts
of fire would result in our getting 100 to 150 rounds right on us or
nearby: the heavier our fire (which was on the trenches entirely) the
heavier theirs.

Our food supply came up at dusk in wagons, and the water was any we
could get, but of course treated with chloride of lime. The ammunition
had to be brought down the roads at the gallop, and the more firing the
more wagons. The men would quickly carry the rounds to the guns, as
the wagons had to halt behind our hill. The good old horses would swing
around at the gallop, pull up in an instant, and stand puffing and
blowing, but with their heads up, as if to say, "Wasn't that well done?"
It makes you want to kiss their dear old noses, and assure them of a
peaceful pasture once more. To-day we got our dressing station dugout
complete, and slept there at night.

Three farms in succession burned on our front--colour in the otherwise
dark. The flashes of shells over the front and rear in all directions.
The city still burning and the procession still going on. I dressed a
number of French wounded; one Turco prayed to Allah and Mohammed all the
time I was dressing his wound. On the front field one can see the dead
lying here and there, and in places where an assault has been they lie
very thick on the front slopes of the German trenches. Our telephone
wagon team hit by a shell; two horses killed and another wounded. I did
what I could for the wounded one, and he subsequently got well. This
night, beginning after dark, we got a terrible shelling, which kept up
till 2 or 3 in the morning. Finally I got to sleep, though it was still
going on. We must have got a couple of hundred rounds, in single or
pairs. Every one burst over us, would light up the dugout, and every hit
in front would shake the ground and bring down small bits of earth on
us, or else the earth thrown into the air by the explosion would come
spattering down on our roof, and into the front of the dugout. Col.
Morrison tried the mess house, but the shelling was too heavy, and he
and the adjutant joined Cosgrave and me, and we four spent an anxious
night there in the dark. One officer was on watch "on the bridge" (as we
called the trench at the top of the ridge) with the telephones.

Monday, April 26th, 1915.

Another day of heavy actions, but last night much French and British
artillery has come in, and the place is thick with Germans. There are
many prematures (with so much firing) but the pieces are usually spread
before they get to us. It is disquieting, however, I must say. And all
the time the birds sing in the trees over our heads. Yesterday up to
noon we fired 3000 rounds for the twenty-four hours; to-day we have
fired much less, but we have registered fresh fronts, and burned some
farms behind the German trenches. About six the fire died down, and we
had a peaceful evening and night, and Cosgrave and I in the dugout made
good use of it. The Colonel has an individual dugout, and Dodds sleeps
"topside" in the trench. To all this, put in a background of anxiety
lest the line break, for we are just where it broke before.

Tuesday, April 27th, 1915.

This morning again registering batteries on new points. At 1.30 a heavy
attack was prepared by the French and ourselves. The fire was very heavy
for half an hour and the enemy got busy too. I had to cross over to
the batteries during it, an unpleasant journey. More gas attacks in the
afternoon. The French did not appear to press the attack hard, but in
the light of subsequent events it probably was only a feint. It seems
likely that about this time our people began to thin out the artillery
again for use elsewhere; but this did not at once become apparent. At
night usually the heavies farther back take up the story, and there is
a duel. The Germans fire on our roads after dark to catch reliefs and
transport. I suppose ours do the same.

Wednesday, April 28th, 1915.

I have to confess to an excellent sleep last night. At times anxiety
says, "I don't want a meal," but experience says "you need your food,"
so I attend regularly to that. The billet is not too safe either. Much
German air reconnaissance over us, and heavy firing from both sides
during the day. At 6.45 we again prepared a heavy artillery attack, but
the infantry made little attempt to go on. We are perhaps the "chopping
block", and our "preparations" may be chiefly designed to prevent
detachments of troops being sent from our front elsewhere.

I have said nothing of what goes on on our right and left; but it is
equally part and parcel of the whole game; this eight mile front is
constantly heavily engaged. At intervals, too, they bombard Ypres. Our
back lines, too, have to be constantly shifted on account of shell fire,
and we have desultory but constant losses there. In the evening rifle
fire gets more frequent, and bullets are constantly singing over us.
Some of them are probably ricochets, for we are 1800 yards, or nearly,
from the nearest German trench.

Thursday, April 29th, 1915.

This morning our billet was hit. We fire less these days, but still
a good deal. There was a heavy French attack on our left. The "gas"
attacks can be seen from here. The yellow cloud rising up is for us a
signal to open, and we do. The wind is from our side to-day, and a good
thing it is. Several days ago during the firing a big Oxford-grey dog,
with beautiful brown eyes, came to us in a panic. He ran to me, and
pressed his head HARD against my leg. So I got him a safe place and he
sticks by us. We call him Fleabag, for he looks like it.

This night they shelled us again heavily for some hours--the same
shorts, hits, overs on percussion, and great yellow-green air bursts.
One feels awfully irritated by the constant din--a mixture of anger and

Friday, April 30th, 1915.

Thick mist this morning, and relative quietness; but before it cleared
the Germans started again to shell us. At 10 it cleared, and from 10 to
2 we fired constantly. The French advanced, and took some ground on our
left front and a batch of prisoners. This was at a place we call Twin
Farms. Our men looked curiously at the Boches as they were marched
through. Some better activity in the afternoon by the Allies'
aeroplanes. The German planes have had it too much their way lately.
Many of to-day's shells have been very large--10 or 12 inch; a lot of
tremendous holes dug in the fields just behind us.

Saturday, May 1st, 1915.

May day! Heavy bombardment at intervals through the day. Another
heavy artillery preparation at 3.25, but no French advance. We fail
to understand why, but orders go. We suffered somewhat during the day.
Through the evening and night heavy firing at intervals.

Sunday, May 2nd, 1915.

Heavy gunfire again this morning. Lieut. H---- was killed at the guns.
His diary's last words were, "It has quieted a little and I shall try to
get a good sleep." I said the Committal Service over him, as well as
I could from memory. A soldier's death! Batteries again registering
barrages or barriers of fire at set ranges. At 3 the Germans attacked,
preceded by gas clouds. Fighting went on for an hour and a half, during
which their guns hammered heavily with some loss to us. The French lines
are very uneasy, and we are correspondingly anxious. The infantry fire
was very heavy, and we fired incessantly, keeping on into the night.
Despite the heavy fire I got asleep at 12, and slept until daylight
which comes at 3.

Monday, May 3rd, 1915.

A clear morning, and the accursed German aeroplanes over our positions
again. They are usually fired at, but no luck. To-day a shell on our
hill dug out a cannon ball about six inches in diameter--probably of
Napoleon's or earlier times--heavily rusted. A German attack began, but
half an hour of artillery fire drove it back. Major----, R.A., was up
forward, and could see the German reserves. Our 4th was turned on: first
round 100 over; shortened and went into gunfire, and his report was
that the effect was perfect. The same occurred again in the evening, and
again at midnight. The Germans were reported to be constantly massing
for attack, and we as constantly "went to them". The German guns shelled
us as usual at intervals. This must get very tiresome to read; but
through it all, it must be mentioned that the constantly broken
communications have to be mended, rations and ammunition brought up,
the wounded to be dressed and got away. Our dugouts have the French
Engineers and French Infantry next door by turns. They march in and
out. The back of the hill is a network of wires, so that one has to go

Tuesday, May 4th, 1915.

Despite intermittent shelling and some casualties the quietest day yet;
but we live in an uneasy atmosphere as German attacks are constantly
being projected, and our communications are interrupted and scrappy. We
get no news of any sort and have just to sit tight and hold on. Evening
closed in rainy and dark. Our dugout is very slenderly provided against
it, and we get pretty wet and very dirty. In the quieter morning hours
we get a chance of a wash and occasionally a shave.

Wednesday, May 5th, 1915.

Heavily hammered in the morning from 7 to 9, but at 9 it let up; the
sun came out and things looked better. Evidently our line has again been
thinned of artillery and the requisite minimum to hold is left. There
were German attacks to our right, just out of our area. Later on we and
they both fired heavily, the first battery getting it especially
hot. The planes over us again and again, to coach the guns. An attack
expected at dusk, but it turned only to heavy night shelling, so that
with our fire, theirs, and the infantry cracking away constantly, we got
sleep in small quantity all night; bullets whizzing over us constantly.
Heavy rain from 5 to 8, and everything wet except the far-in corner of
the dugout, where we mass our things to keep them as dry as we may.

Thursday, May 6th, 1915.

After the rain a bright morning; the leaves and blossoms are coming out.
We ascribe our quietude to a welcome flock of allied planes which are
over this morning. The Germans attacked at eleven, and again at six in
the afternoon, each meaning a waking up of heavy artillery on the whole
front. In the evening we had a little rain at intervals, but it was

Friday, May 7th, 1915.

A bright morning early, but clouded over later. The Germans gave it to
us very heavily. There was heavy fighting to the south-east of us. Two
attacks or threats, and we went in again.

Saturday, May 8th, 1915.

For the last three days we have been under British divisional control,
and supporting our own men who have been put farther to the left, till
they are almost in front of us. It is an added comfort. We have four
officers out with various infantry regiments for observation and
co-operation; they have to stick it in trenches, as all the houses and
barns are burned. The whole front is constantly ablaze with big gunfire;
the racket never ceases. We have now to do most of the work for our
left, as our line appears to be much thinner than it was. A German
attack followed the shelling at 7; we were fighting hard till 12, and
less regularly all the afternoon. We suffered much, and at one time were
down to seven guns. Of these two were smoking at every joint, and the
levers were so hot that the gunners used sacking for their hands. The
pace is now much hotter, and the needs of the infantry for fire more
insistent. The guns are in bad shape by reason of dirt, injuries, and
heat. The wind fortunately blows from us, so there is no gas, but the
attacks are still very heavy. Evening brought a little quiet, but very
disquieting news (which afterwards proved untrue); and we had to face
a possible retirement. You may imagine our state of mind, unable to get
anything sure in the uncertainty, except that we should stick out as
long as the guns would fire, and we could fire them. That sort of night
brings a man down to his "bare skin", I promise you. The night was very
cold, and not a cheerful one.

Sunday, May 9th, 1915.

At 4 we were ordered to get ready to move, and the Adjutant picked out
new retirement positions; but a little later better news came, and the
daylight and sun revived us a bit. As I sat in my dugout a little white
and black dog with tan spots bolted in over the parapet, during heavy
firing, and going to the farthest corner began to dig furiously. Having
scraped out a pathetic little hole two inches deep, she sat down and
shook, looking most plaintively at me. A few minutes later, her owner
came along, a French soldier. Bissac was her name, but she would not
leave me at the time. When I sat down a little later, she stole out and
shyly crawled in between me and the wall; she stayed by me all day, and
I hope got later on to safe quarters.

Firing kept up all day. In thirty hours we had fired 3600 rounds, and
at times with seven, eight, or nine guns; our wire cut and repaired
eighteen times. Orders came to move, and we got ready. At dusk we got
the guns out by hand, and all batteries assembled at a given spot in
comparative safety. We were much afraid they would open on us, for at 10
o'clock they gave us 100 or 150 rounds, hitting the trench parapet again
and again. However, we were up the road, the last wagon half a mile
away before they opened. One burst near me, and splattered some pieces
around, but we got clear, and by 12 were out of the usual fire zone.
Marched all night, tired as could be, but happy to be clear.

I was glad to get on dear old Bonfire again. We made about sixteen
miles, and got to our billets at dawn. I had three or four hours'
sleep, and arose to a peaceful breakfast. We shall go back to the line
elsewhere very soon, but it is a present relief, and the next place is
sure to be better, for it cannot be worse. Much of this narrative is
bald and plain, but it tells our part in a really great battle. I have
only had hasty notes to go by; in conversation there is much one could
say that would be of greater interest. Heard of the 'Lusitania' disaster
on our road out. A terrible affair!

Here ends the account of his part in this memorable battle,

And here follow some general observations upon the experience:

Northern France, May 10th, 1915.

We got here to refit and rest this morning at 4, having marched last
night at 10. The general impression in my mind is of a nightmare. We
have been in the most bitter of fights. For seventeen days and seventeen
nights none of us have had our clothes off, nor our boots even, except
occasionally. In all that time while I was awake, gunfire and rifle fire
never ceased for sixty seconds, and it was sticking to our utmost by a
weak line all but ready to break, knowing nothing of what was going on,
and depressed by reports of anxious infantry. The men and the divisions
are worthy of all praise that can be given. It did not end in four days
when many of our infantry were taken out. It kept on at fever heat till

This, of course, is the second battle of Ypres, or the battle of the
Yser, I do not know which. At one time we were down to seven guns,
but those guns were smoking at every joint, the gunners using cloth to
handle the breech levers because of the heat. We had three batteries in
action with four guns added from the other units. Our casualties were
half the number of men in the firing line. The horse lines and the wagon
lines farther back suffered less, but the Brigade list has gone far
higher than any artillery normal. I know one brigade R.A. that was in
the Mons retreat and had about the same. I have done what fell to hand.
My clothes, boots, kit, and dugout at various times were sadly bloody.
Two of our batteries are reduced to two officers each. We have had
constant accurate shell-fire, but we have given back no less. And
behind it all was the constant background of the sights of the dead, the
wounded, the maimed, and a terrible anxiety lest the line should give

During all this time, we have been behind French troops, and only
helping our own people by oblique fire when necessary. Our horses have
suffered heavily too. Bonfire had a light wound from a piece of shell;
it is healing and the dear old fellow is very fit. Had my first ride
for seventeen days last night. We never saw horses but with the wagons
bringing up the ammunition. When fire was hottest they had to come two
miles on a road terribly swept, and they did it magnificently. But how
tired we are! Weary in body and wearier in mind. None of our men went
off their heads but men in units nearby did--and no wonder.

France, May 12th, 1915.

I am glad you had your mind at rest by the rumour that we were in
reserve. What newspaper work! The poor old artillery never gets any
mention, and the whole show is the infantry. It may interest you to
note on your map a spot on the west bank of the canal, a mile and a half
north of Ypres, as the scene of our labours. There can be no harm in
saying so, now that we are out of it. The unit was the most advanced
of all the Allies' guns by a good deal except one French battery which
stayed in a position yet more advanced for two days, and then had to be
taken out. I think it may be said that we saw the show from the soup to
the coffee.

France, May 17th, 1915.

The farther we get away from Ypres the more we learn of the enormous
power the Germans put in to push us over. Lord only knows how many men
they had, and how many they lost. I wish I could embody on paper some of
the varied sensations of that seventeen days. All the gunners down this
way passed us all sorts of 'kudos' over it. Our guns--those behind
us, from which we had to dodge occasional prematures--have a peculiar
bang-sound added to the sharp crack of discharge. The French 75 has a
sharp wood-block-chop sound, and the shell goes over with a peculiar
whine--not unlike a cat, but beginning with n--thus,--n-eouw. The big
fellows, 3000 yards or more behind, sounded exactly like our own, but
the flash came three or four seconds before the sound. Of the German
shells--the field guns come with a great velocity--no warning--just
whizz-bang; white smoke, nearly always air bursts. The next size,
probably 5 inch howitzers, have a perceptible time of approach, an
increasing whine, and a great burst on the percussion--dirt in all
directions. And even if a shell hit on the front of the canal bank, and
one were on the back of the bank, five, eight, or ten seconds later
one would hear a belated WHIRR, and curved pieces of shell would
light--probably parabolic curves or boomerangs. These shells have a
great back kick; from the field gun shrapnel we got nothing BEHIND the
shell--all the pieces go forward. From the howitzers, the danger is
almost as great behind as in front if they burst on percussion. Then the
large shrapnel--air-burst--have a double explosion, as if a giant shook
a wet sail for two flaps; first a dark green burst of smoke; then
a lighter yellow burst goes out from the centre, forwards. I do not
understand the why of it.

Then the 10-inch shells: a deliberate whirring course--a deafening
explosion--black smoke, and earth 70 or 80 feet in the air. These always
burst on percussion. The constant noise of our own guns is really worse
on the nerves than the shell; there is the deafening noise, and the
constant whirr of shells going overhead. The earth shakes with every
nearby gun and every close shell. I think I may safely enclose a cross
section of our position. The left is the front: a slope down of 20 feet
in 100 yards to the canal, a high row of trees on each bank, then a
short 40 yards slope up to the summit of the trench, where the brain of
the outfit was; then a telephone wired slope, and on the sharp slope,
the dugouts, including my own. The nondescript affair on the low slope
is the gun position, behind it the men's shelter pits. Behind my dugout
was a rapid small stream, on its far bank a row of pollard willows, then
30 yards of field, then a road with two parallel rows of high trees.
Behind this again, several hundred yards of fields to cross before the
main gun positions are reached.

More often fire came from three quarters left, and because our ridge
died away there was a low spot over which they could come pretty
dangerously. The road thirty yards behind us was a nightmare to me.
I saw all the tragedies of war enacted there. A wagon, or a bunch of
horses, or a stray man, or a couple of men, would get there just in time
for a shell. One would see the absolute knock-out, and the obviously
lightly wounded crawling off on hands and knees; or worse yet, at night,
one would hear the tragedy--"that horse scream"--or the man's moan. All
our own wagons had to come there (one every half hour in smart action),
be emptied, and the ammunition carried over by hand. Do you wonder that
the road got on our nerves? On this road, too, was the house where we
took our meals. It was hit several times, windows all blown in by nearby
shells, but one end remained for us.

Seventeen days of Hades! At the end of the first day if anyone had told
us we had to spend seventeen days there, we would have folded our hands
and said it could not be done. On the fifteenth day we got orders to
go out, but that was countermanded in two hours. To the last we could
scarcely believe we were actually to get out. The real audacity of the
position was its safety; the Germans knew to a foot where we were. I
think I told you of some of the "you must stick it out" messages we got
from our [French] General,--they put it up to us. It is a wonder to me
that we slept when, and how, we did. If we had not slept and eaten as
well as possible we could not have lasted. And while we were doing
this, the London office of a Canadian newspaper cabled home "Canadian
Artillery in reserve." Such is fame!

Thursday, May 27th, 1915.

Day cloudy and chilly. We wore our greatcoats most of the afternoon,
and looked for bits of sunlight to get warm. About two o'clock the heavy
guns gave us a regular "black-smithing". Every time we fired we drew a
perfect hornet's nest about our heads. While attending to a casualty,
a shell broke through both sides of the trench, front and back, about
twelve feet away. The zigzag of the trench was between it and us, and we
escaped. From my bunk the moon looks down at me, and the wind whistles
along the trench like a corridor. As the trenches run in all directions
they catch the wind however it blows, so one is always sure of a good
draught. We have not had our clothes off since last Saturday, and there
is no near prospect of getting them off.

Friday, May 28th, 1915.

Warmer this morning and sunny, a quiet morning, as far as we were
concerned. One battery fired twenty rounds and the rest "sat tight".
Newspapers which arrive show that up to May 7th, the Canadian public has
made no guess at the extent of the battle of Ypres. The Canadian
papers seem to have lost interest in it after the first four days; this
regardless of the fact that the artillery, numerically a quarter of
the division, was in all the time. One correspondent writes from the
Canadian rest camp, and never mentions Ypres. Others say they hear heavy
bombarding which appears to come from Armentieres.

A few strokes will complete the picture:

Wednesday, April 29th*, 1915.

This morning is the sixth day of this fight; it has been constant,
except that we got good chance to sleep for the last two nights. Our
men have fought beyond praise. Canadian soldiers have set a standard for
themselves which will keep posterity busy to surpass. And the War Office
published that the 4.1 guns captured were Canadian. They were not: the
division has not lost a gun so far by capture. We will make a good job
of it--if we can.

     * [sic]  This should read April 28th.--A. L., 1995.

May 1st, 1915.

This is the ninth day that we have stuck to the ridge, and the batteries
have fought with a steadiness which is beyond all praise. If I could say
what our casualties in men, guns, and horses were, you would see at a
glance it has been a hot corner; but we have given better than we
got, for the German casualties from this front have been largely from
artillery, except for the French attack of yesterday and the day before,
when they advanced appreciably on our left. The front, however, just
here remains where it was, and the artillery fire is very heavy--I think
as heavy here as on any part of the line, with the exception of certain
cross-roads which are the particular object of fire. The first four days
the anxiety was wearing, for we did not know at what minute the German
army corps would come for us. We lie out in support of the French troops
entirely, and are working with them. Since that time evidently great
reinforcements have come in, and now we have a most formidable force of
artillery to turn on them.

Fortunately the weather has been good; the days are hot and summer-like.
Yesterday in the press of bad smells I got a whiff of a hedgerow in
bloom. The birds perch on the trees over our heads and twitter away as
if there was nothing to worry about. Bonfire is still well. I do hope he
gets through all right.

Flanders, March 30th, 1915.

The Brigade is actually in twelve different places. The ammunition
column and the horse and wagon lines are back, and my corporal visits
them every day. I attend the gun lines; any casualty is reported by
telephone, and I go to it. The wounded and sick stay where they are till
dark, when the field ambulances go over certain grounds and collect. A
good deal of suffering is entailed by the delay till night, but it
is useless for vehicles to go on the roads within 1500 yards of the
trenches. They are willing enough to go. Most of the trench injuries are
of the head, and therefore there is a high proportion of killed in
the daily warfare as opposed to an attack. Our Canadian plots fill up

And here is one last note to his mother:

On the eve of the battle of Ypres I was indebted to you for a letter
which said "take good care of my son Jack, but I would not have you
unmindful that, sometimes, when we save we lose." I have that last happy
phrase to thank. Often when I had to go out over the areas that were
being shelled, it came into my mind. I would shoulder the box, and "go
to it".

At this time the Canadian division was moving south to take its share in
the events that happened in the La Bassee sector. Here is the record:

Tuesday, June 1st, 1915.

1-1/2 miles northeast of Festubert, near La Bassee.

Last night a 15 pr. and a 4-inch howitzer fired at intervals of five
minutes from 8 till 4; most of them within 500 or 600 yards--a very
tiresome procedure; much of it is on registered roads. In the morning I
walked out to Le Touret to the wagon lines, got Bonfire, and rode to
the headquarters at Vendin-lez-Bethune, a little village a mile
past Bethune. Left the horse at the lines and walked back again. An
unfortunate shell in the 1st killed a sergeant and wounded two men;
thanks to the strong emplacements the rest of the crew escaped. In the
evening went around the batteries and said good-bye. We stood by while
they laid away the sergeant who was killed. Kind hands have made two
pathetic little wreaths of roses; the grave under an apple-tree, and
the moon rising over the horizon; a siege-lamp held for the book. Of
the last 41 days the guns have been in action 33. Captain Lockhart, late
with Fort Garry Horse, arrived to relieve me. I handed over, came up to
the horse lines, and slept in a covered wagon in a courtyard. We were
all sorry to part--the four of us have been very intimate and had agreed
perfectly--and friendships under these circumstances are apt to be the
real thing. I am sorry to leave them in such a hot corner, but cannot
choose and must obey orders. It is a great relief from strain, I must
admit, to be out, but I could wish that they all were.

This phase of the war lasted two months precisely,

and to John McCrae it must have seemed a lifetime since he went into
this memorable action. The events preceding the second battle of Ypres
received scant mention in his letters; but one remains, which brings
into relief one of the many moves of that tumultuous time.

April 1st, 1915.

We moved out in the late afternoon, getting on the road a little after
dark. Such a move is not unattended by danger, for to bring horses and
limbers down the roads in the shell zone in daylight renders them liable
to observation, aerial or otherwise. More than that, the roads are now
beginning to be dusty, and at all times there is the noise which carries
far. The roads are nearly all registered in their battery books, so if
they suspect a move, it is the natural thing to loose off a few rounds.
However, our anxiety was not borne out, and we got out of the danger
zone by 8.30--a not too long march in the dark, and then for the last
of the march a glorious full moon. The houses everywhere are as dark as
possible, and on the roads noises but no lights. One goes on by the long
rows of trees that are so numerous in this country, on cobblestones and
country roads, watching one's horses' ears wagging, and seeing not much
else. Our maps are well studied before we start, and this time we
are not far out of familiar territory. We got to our new billet about
10--quite a good farmhouse; and almost at once one feels the relief of
the strain of being in the shell zone. I cannot say I had noticed it
when there; but one is distinctly relieved when out of it.

Such, then, was the life in Flanders fields in which the verse was born.
This is no mere surmise. There is a letter from Major-General E. W. B.
Morrison, C.B., C.M.G., D.S.O., who commanded the Brigade at the time,
which is quite explicit. "This poem," General Morrison writes, "was
literally born of fire and blood during the hottest phase of the second
battle of Ypres. My headquarters were in a trench on the top of the bank
of the Ypres Canal, and John had his dressing station in a hole dug in
the foot of the bank. During periods in the battle men who were shot
actually rolled down the bank into his dressing station. Along from us
a few hundred yards was the headquarters of a regiment, and many times
during the sixteen days of battle, he and I watched them burying their
dead whenever there was a lull. Thus the crosses, row on row, grew
into a good-sized cemetery. Just as he describes, we often heard in the
mornings the larks singing high in the air, between the crash of the
shell and the reports of the guns in the battery just beside us. I have
a letter from him in which he mentions having written the poem to pass
away the time between the arrival of batches of wounded, and partly as
an experiment with several varieties of poetic metre. I have a sketch of
the scene, taken at the time, including his dressing station; and during
our operations at Passchendaele last November, I found time to make a
sketch of the scene of the crosses, row on row, from which he derived
his inspiration."

The last letter from the Front is dated June 1st, 1915. Upon that day he
was posted to No. 3 General Hospital at Boulogne, and placed in charge
of medicine with the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel as of date 17th April,
1915. Here he remained until the day of his death on January 28th, 1918.

III. The Brand of War

There are men who pass through such scenes unmoved. If they have
eyes, they do not see; and ears, they do not hear. But John McCrae was
profoundly moved, and bore in his body until the end the signs of his
experience. Before taking up his new duties he made a visit to the
hospitals in Paris to see if there was any new thing that might be
learned. A Nursing Sister in the American Ambulance at Neuilly-sur-Seine
met him in the wards. Although she had known him for fifteen years she
did not recognize him,--he appeared to her so old, so worn, his face
lined and ashen grey in colour, his expression dull, his action slow and

To those who have never seen John McCrae since he left Canada this
change in his appearance will seem incredible. He was of the Eckfords,
and the Eckford men were "bonnie men", men with rosy cheeks. It was
a year before I met him again, and he had not yet recovered from the
strain. Although he was upwards of forty years of age when he left
Canada he had always retained an appearance of extreme youthfulness. He
frequented the company of men much younger than himself, and their youth
was imputed to him. His frame was tall and well knit, and he showed
alertness in every move. He would arise from the chair with every muscle
in action, and walk forth as if he were about to dance.

The first time I saw him he was doing an autopsy at the Montreal General
Hospital upon the body of a child who had died under my care. This must
have been in the year 1900, and the impression of boyishness remained
until I met him in France sixteen years later. His manner of dress
did much to produce this illusion. When he was a student in London he
employed a tailor in Queen Victoria Street to make his clothes; but with
advancing years he neglected to have new measurements taken or to alter
the pattern of his cloth. To obtain a new suit was merely to write a
letter, and he was always economical of time. In those days jackets were
cut short, and he adhered to the fashion with persistent care.

This appearance of youth at times caused chagrin to those patients who
had heard of his fame as a physician, and called upon him for the
first time. In the Royal Victoria Hospital, after he had been appointed
physician, he entered the wards and asked a nurse to fetch a screen so
that he might examine a patient in privacy.

"Students are not allowed to use screens," the young woman warned him
with some asperity in her voice.

If I were asked to state briefly the impression which remains with me
most firmly, I should say it was one of continuous laughter. That is not
true, of course, for in repose his face was heavy, his countenance more
than ruddy; it was even of a "choleric" cast, and at times almost livid,
especially when he was recovering from one of those attacks of asthma
from which he habitually suffered. But his smile was his own, and it was
ineffable. It filled the eyes, and illumined the face. It was the smile
of sheer fun, of pure gaiety, of sincere playfulness, innocent of irony;
with a tinge of sarcasm--never. When he allowed himself to speak of
meanness in the profession, of dishonesty in men, of evil in the world,
his face became formidable. The glow of his countenance deepened; his
words were bitter, and the tones harsh. But the indignation would
not last. The smile would come back. The effect was spoiled. Everyone
laughed with him.

After his experience at the front the old gaiety never returned. There
were moments of irascibility and moods of irritation. The desire for
solitude grew upon him, and with Bonfire and Bonneau he would go apart
for long afternoons far afield by the roads and lanes about Boulogne.
The truth is: he felt that he and all had failed, and that the torch
was thrown from failing hands. We have heard much of the suffering, the
misery, the cold, the wet, the gloom of those first three winters; but
no tongue has yet uttered the inner misery of heart that was bred of
those three years of failure to break the enemy's force.

He was not alone in this shadow of deep darkness. Givenchy, Festubert,
Neuve-Chapelle, Ypres, Hooge, the Somme--to mention alone the battles in
which up to that time the Canadian Corps had been engaged--all ended in
failure; and to a sensitive and foreboding mind there were sounds and
signs that it would be given to this generation to hear the pillars and
fabric of Empire come crashing into the abysm of chaos. He was not at
the Somme in that October of 1916, but those who returned up north
with the remnants of their division from that place of slaughter will
remember that, having done all men could do, they felt like deserters
because they had not left their poor bodies dead upon the field along
with friends of a lifetime, comrades of a campaign. This is no mere
matter of surmise. The last day I spent with him we talked of those
things in his tent, and I testify that it is true.

IV. Going to the Wars

John McCrae went to the war without illusions. At first, like many
others of his age, he did not "think of enlisting", although "his
services are at the disposal of the Country if it needs them."

In July, 1914, he was at work upon the second edition of the 'Text-Book
of Pathology' by Adami and McCrae, published by Messrs. Lea and Febiger,
and he had gone to Philadelphia to read the proofs. He took them to
Atlantic City where he could "sit out on the sand, and get sunshine and
oxygen, and work all at once."

It was a laborious task, passing eighty to a hundred pages of highly
technical print each day. Then there was the index, between six and
seven thousand items. "I have," so he writes, "to change every item in
the old index and add others. I have a pile of pages, 826 in all. I
look at the index, find the old page among the 826, and then change the
number. This about 7000 times, so you may guess the drudgery." On July
15th, the work was finished, registered, and entrusted to the mail with
a special delivery stamp. The next day he wrote the preface, "which
really finished the job." In very truth his scientific work was done.

It was now midsummer. The weather was hot. He returned to Montreal.
Practice was dull. He was considering a voyage to Havre and "a little
trip with Dr. Adami" when he arrived. On July 29th, he left Canada "for
better or worse. With the world so disturbed," he records, "I would
gladly have stayed more in touch with events, but I dare say one is just
as happy away from the hundred conflicting reports." The ship was the
'Scotian' of the Allan Line, and he "shared a comfortable cabin with a
professor of Greek," who was at the University in his own time.

For one inland born, he had a keen curiosity about ships and the sea.
There is a letter written when he was thirteen years of age in which
he gives an account of a visit to a naval exhibition in London. He
describes the models which he saw, and gives an elaborate table of
names, dimensions, and tonnage. He could identify the house flags and
funnels of all the principal liners; he could follow a ship through all
her vicissitudes and change of ownership. When he found himself in a
seaport town his first business was to visit the water front and take
knowledge of the vessels that lay in the stream or by the docks. One
voyage he made to England was in a cargo ship. With his passion for
work he took on the duties of surgeon, and amazed the skipper with a
revelation of the new technique in operations which he himself had been
accustomed to perform by the light of experience alone.

On the present and more luxurious voyage, he remarks that the decks were
roomy, the ship seven years old, and capable of fifteen knots an hour,
the passengers pleasant, and including a large number of French. All now
know only too well the nature of the business which sent those ardent
spirits flocking home to their native land.

Forty-eight hours were lost in fog. The weather was too thick for making
the Straits, and the 'Scotian' proceeded by Cape Race on her way to
Havre. Under date of August 5-6 the first reference to the war appears:
"All is excitement; the ship runs without lights. Surely the German
kaiser has his head in the noose at last: it will be a terrible war, and
the finish of one or the other. I am afraid my holiday trip is knocked
galley west; but we shall see." The voyage continues. A "hundred miles
from Moville we turned back, and headed South for Queenstown; thence to
the Channel; put in at Portland; a squadron of battleships; arrived here
this morning."

The problem presented itself to him as to many another. The decision was
made. To go back to America was to go back from the war. Here are the
words: "It seems quite impossible to return, and I do not think I
should try. I would not feel quite comfortable over it. I am cabling to
Morrison at Ottawa, that I am available either as combatant or medical
if they need me. I do not go to it very light-heartedly, but I think it
is up to me."

It was not so easy in those days to get to the war, as he and many
others were soon to discover. There was in Canada at the time a small
permanent force of 3000 men, a military college, a Headquarters staff,
and divisional staff for the various districts into which the country
was divided. In addition there was a body of militia with a strength of
about 60,000 officers and other ranks. Annual camps were formed at which
all arms of the service were represented, and the whole was a very good
imitation of service conditions. Complete plans for mobilization were
in existence, by which a certain quota, according to the establishment
required, could be detailed from each district. But upon the outbreak
of war the operations were taken in hand by a Minister of Militia who
assumed in his own person all those duties usually assigned to the
staff. He called to his assistance certain business and political
associates, with the result that volunteers who followed military
methods did not get very far.

Accordingly we find it written in John McCrae's diary from London:
"Nothing doing here. I have yet no word from the Department at Ottawa,
but I try to be philosophical until I hear from Morrison. If they want
me for the Canadian forces, I could use my old Sam Browne belt, sword,
and saddle if it is yet extant. At times I wish I could go home with a
clear conscience."

He sailed for Canada in the 'Calgarian' on August 28th, having received
a cablegram from Colonel Morrison, that he had been provisionally
appointed surgeon to the 1st Brigade Artillery. The night he arrived in
Montreal I dined with him at the University Club, and he was aglow with
enthusiasm over this new adventure. He remained in Montreal for a few
days, and on September 9th, joined the unit to which he was attached as
medical officer. Before leaving Montreal he wrote to his sister Geills:

"Out on the awful old trail again! And with very mixed feelings, but
some determination. I am off to Val-cartier to-night. I was really
afraid to go home, for I feared it would only be harrowing for Mater,
and I think she agrees. We can hope for happier times. Everyone most
kind and helpful: my going does not seem to surprise anyone. I know you
will understand it is hard to go home, and perhaps easier for us all
that I do not. I am in good hope of coming back soon and safely: that, I
am glad to say, is in other and better hands than ours."

V. South Africa

In the Autumn of 1914, after John McCrae had gone over-seas, I was in a
warehouse in Montreal, in which one might find an old piece of mahogany
wood. His boxes were there in storage, with his name plainly printed
upon them. The storeman, observing my interest, remarked: "This Doctor
McCrae cannot be doing much business; he is always going to the wars."
The remark was profoundly significant of the state of mind upon the
subject of war which prevailed at the time in Canada in more intelligent
persons. To this storeman war merely meant that the less usefully
employed members of the community sent their boxes to him for
safe-keeping until their return. War was a great holiday from work; and
he had a vague remembrance that some fifteen years before this customer
had required of him a similar service when the South African war broke

Either 'in esse' or 'in posse' John McCrae had "always been going to the
wars." At fourteen years of age he joined the Guelph Highland Cadets,
and rose to the rank of 1st Lieutenant. As his size and strength
increased he reverted to the ranks and transferred to the Artillery. In
due time he rose from gunner to major. The formal date of his "Gazette"
is 17-3-02 as they write it in the army; but he earned his rank in South

War was the burden of his thought; war and death the theme of his verse.
At the age of thirteen we find him at a gallery in Nottingham, writing
this note: "I saw the picture of the artillery going over the trenches
at Tel-el-Kebir. It is a good picture; but there are four teams on the
guns. Perhaps an extra one had to be put on." If his nomenclature was
not correct, the observation of the young artillerist was exact. Such
excesses were not permitted in his father's battery in Guelph, Ontario.
During this same visit his curiosity led him into the House of Lords,
and the sum of his written observation is, "When someone is speaking no
one seems to listen at all."

His mother I never knew. Canada is a large place. With his father I
had four hours' talk from seven to eleven one June evening in London
in 1917. At the time I was on leave from France to give the Cavendish
Lecture, a task which demanded some thought; and after two years in the
army it was a curious sensation--watching one's mind at work again.
The day was Sunday. I had walked down to the river to watch the flowing
tide. To one brought up in a country of streams and a moving sea the
curse of Flanders is her stagnant waters. It is little wonder the exiles
from the Judaean hillsides wept beside the slimy River.

The Thames by evening in June, memories that reached from Tacitus to
Wordsworth, the embrasure that extends in front of the Egyptian obelisk
for a standing place, and some children "swimming a dog";--that was the
scene and circumstance of my first meeting with his father. A man
of middle age was standing by. He wore the flashings of a
Lieutenant-Colonel and for badges the Artillery grenades. He seemed
a friendly man; and under the influence of the moment, which he also
surely felt, I spoke to him.

"A fine river,"--That was a safe remark.

"But I know a finer."

"Pharpar and Abana?" I put the stranger to the test.

"No," he said. "The St. Lawrence is not of Damascus." He had answered to
the sign, and looked at my patches.

"I have a son in France, myself," he said. "His name is McCrae."

"Not John McCrae?"

"John McCrae is my son."

The resemblance was instant, but this was an older man than at first
sight he seemed to be. I asked him to dinner at Morley's, my place of
resort for a length of time beyond the memory of all but the oldest
servants. He had already dined but he came and sat with me, and told me
marvellous things.

David McCrae had raised, and trained, a field battery in Guelph, and
brought it overseas. He was at the time upwards of seventy years of age,
and was considered on account of years alone "unfit" to proceed to the
front. For many years he had commanded a field battery in the Canadian
militia, went on manoeuvres with his "cannons", and fired round shot.
When the time came for using shells he bored the fuse with a gimlet; and
if the gimlet were lost in the grass, the gun was out of action until
the useful tool could be found. This "cannon ball" would travel over the
country according to the obstacles it encountered and, "if it struck a
man, it might break his leg."

In such a martial atmosphere the boy was brought up, and he was early
nourished with the history of the Highland regiments. Also from his
father he inherited, or had instilled into him, a love of the out of
doors, a knowledge of trees, and plants, a sympathy with birds and
beasts, domestic and wild. When the South African war broke out a
contingent was dispatched from Canada, but it was so small that few of
those desiring to go could find a place. This explains the genesis of
the following letter:

I see by to-night's bulletin that there is to be no second contingent. I
feel sick with disappointment, and do not believe that I have ever been
so disappointed in my life, for ever since this business began I am
certain there have not been fifteen minutes of my waking hours that it
has not been in my mind. It has to come sooner or later. One campaign
might cure me, but nothing else ever will, unless it should be old age.
I regret bitterly that I did not enlist with the first, for I doubt if
ever another chance will offer like it. This is not said in ignorance of
what the hardships would be.

I am ashamed to say I am doing my work in a merely mechanical way. If
they are taking surgeons on the other side, I have enough money to get
myself across. If I knew any one over there who could do anything, I
would certainly set about it. If I can get an appointment in England
by going, I will go. My position here I do not count as an old boot in

In the end he accomplished the desire of his heart, and sailed on the
'Laurentian'. Concerning the voyage one transcription will be enough:

On orderly duty. I have just been out taking the picket at 11.30 P.M. In
the stables the long row of heads in the half-darkness, the creaking of
the ship, the shivering of the hull from the vibration of the engines,
the sing of a sentry on the spar deck to some passer-by. Then to the
forward deck: the sky half covered with scudding clouds, the stars
bright in the intervals, the wind whistling a regular blow that tries
one's ears, the constant swish as she settles down to a sea; and,
looking aft, the funnel with a wreath of smoke trailing away off into
the darkness on the starboard quarter; the patch of white on the funnel
discernible dimly; the masts drawing maps across the sky as one looks
up; the clank of shovels coming up through the ventilators,--if you have
ever been there, you know it all.

There was a voluntary service at six; two ships' lanterns and the men
all around, the background of sky and sea, and the strains of "Nearer
my God to Thee" rising up in splendid chorus. It was a very effective
scene, and it occurred to me that THIS was "the rooibaatjees singing on
the road," as the song says.

The next entry is from South Africa:

Green Point Camp, Capetown,

February 25th, 1900.

You have no idea of the WORK. Section commanders live with their
sections, which is the right way. It makes long hours. I never knew a
softer bed than the ground is these nights. I really enjoy every minute
though there is anxiety. We have lost all our spare horses. We have only
enough to turn out the battery and no more.

After a description of a number of the regiments camped near by them, he
speaks of the Indian troops, and then says:

We met the High Priest of it all, and I had a five minutes' chat with
him--Kipling I mean. He visited the camp. He looks like his pictures,
and is very affable. He told me I spoke like a Winnipeger. He said we
ought to "fine the men for drinking unboiled water. Don't give them
C.B.; it is no good. Fine them, or drive common sense into them. All
Canadians have common sense."

The next letter is from the Lines of Communication:

Van Wyks Vlei,

March 22nd, 1900.

Here I am with my first command. Each place we strike is a little more
God-forsaken than the last, and this place wins up to date. We marched
last week from Victoria west to Carnovan, about 80 miles. We stayed
there over Sunday, and on Monday my section was detached with mounted
infantry, I being the only artillery officer. We marched 54 miles in
37 hours with stops; not very fast, but quite satisfactory. My horse is
doing well, although very thin. Night before last on the road we halted,
and I dismounted for a minute. When we started I pulled on the lines but
no answer. The poor old chap was fast asleep in his tracks, and in about
thirty seconds too.

This continuous marching is really hard work. The men at every halt just
drop down in the road and sleep until they are kicked up again in ten
minutes. They do it willingly too. I am commanding officer, adjutant,
officer on duty, and all the rest since we left the main body. Talk
about the Army in Flanders! You should hear this battalion. I always
knew soldiers could swear, but you ought to hear these fellows. I am
told the first contingent has got a name among the regulars.

Three weeks later he writes:

April 10th, 1900.

We certainly shall have done a good march when we get to the railroad,
478 miles through a country desolate of forage carrying our own
transport and one-half rations of forage, and frequently the men's
rations. For two days running we had nine hours in the saddle without
food. My throat was sore and swollen for a day or two, and I felt
so sorry for myself at times that I laughed to think how I must have
looked: sitting on a stone, drinking a pan of tea without trimmings,
that had got cold, and eating a shapeless lump of brown bread; my one
"hank" drawn around my neck, serving as hank and bandage alternately. It
is miserable to have to climb up on one's horse with a head like a
buzz saw, the sun very hot, and "gargle" in one's water bottle. It is
surprising how I can go without water if I have to on a short stretch,
that is, of ten hours in the sun. It is after nightfall that the thirst
really seems to attack one and actually gnaws. One thinks of all the
cool drinks and good things one would like to eat. Please understand
that this is not for one instant in any spirit of growling.

The detail was now established at Victoria Road. Three entries appear*:

     * I only count two. . . .  A. L., 1995.

April 23rd, 1900.

We are still here in camp hoping for orders to move, but they have not
yet come. Most of the other troops have gone. A squadron of the M.C.R.,
my messmates for the past five weeks, have gone and I am left an orphan.
I was very sorry to see them go. They, in the kindness of their hearts,
say, if I get stranded, they will do the best they can to get a troop
for me in the squadron or some such employment. Impracticable, but kind.
I have no wish to cease to be a gunner.

Victoria Road, May 20th, 1900.

The horses are doing as well as one can expect, for the rations are
insufficient. Our men have been helping to get ready a rest camp near
us, and have been filling mattresses with hay. Every fatigue party comes
back from the hospital, their jackets bulging with hay for the horses.
Two bales were condemned as too musty to put into the mattresses, and we
were allowed to take them for the horses. They didn't leave a spear of
it. Isn't it pitiful? Everything that the heart of man and woman can
devise has been sent out for the "Tommies", but no one thinks of the
poor horses. They get the worst of it all the time. Even now we blush to
see the handful of hay that each horse gets at a feed.

The Boer War is so far off in time and space that a few further detached
references must suffice:

When riding into Bloemfontein met Lord----'s funeral at the cemetery
gates,--band, firing party, Union Jack, and about three companies. A
few yards farther on a "Tommy" covered only by his blanket, escorted
by thirteen men all told, the last class distinction that the world can
ever make.

We had our baptism of fire yesterday. They opened on us from the left
flank. Their first shell was about 150 yards in front--direction good.
The next was 100 yards over; and we thought we were bracketed. Some
shrapnel burst over us and scattered on all sides. I felt as if a hail
storm was coming down, and wanted to turn my back, but it was over in
an instant. The whistle of a shell is unpleasant. You hear it begin
to scream; the scream grows louder and louder; it seems to be coming
exactly your way; then you realize that it has gone over. Most of them
fell between our guns and wagons. Our position was quite in the open.

With Ian Hamilton's column near Balmoral.

The day was cold, much like a December day at home, and by my kit going
astray I had only light clothing. The rain was fearfully chilly. When we
got in about dark we found that the transport could not come up, and it
had all our blankets and coats. I had my cape and a rubber sheet for
the saddle, both soaking wet. Being on duty I held to camp, the others
making for the house nearby where they got poor quarters. I bunked out,
supperless like every one else, under an ammunition wagon. It rained
most of the night and was bitterly cold. I slept at intervals, keeping
the same position all night, both legs in a puddle and my feet being
rained on: it was a long night from dark at 5.30 to morning. Ten men
in the infantry regiment next us died during the night from exposure.
Altogether I never knew such a night, and with decent luck hope never to
see such another.

As we passed we saw the Connaughts looking at the graves of their
comrades of twenty years ago. The Battery rode at attention and gave
"Eyes right": the first time for twenty years that the roll of a British
gun has broken in on the silence of those unnamed graves.

We were inspected by Lord Roberts. The battery turned out very smart,
and Lord Roberts complimented the Major on its appearance. He then
inspected, and afterwards asked to have the officers called out. We were
presented to him in turn; he spoke a few words to each of us, asking
what our corps and service had been. He seemed surprised that we were
all Field Artillery men, but probably the composition of the other
Canadian units had to do with this. He asked a good many questions about
the horses, the men, and particularly about the spirits of the men.
Altogether he showed a very kind interest in the battery.

At nine took the Presbyterian parade to the lines, the first
Presbyterian service since we left Canada. We had the right, the Gordons
and the Royal Scots next. The music was excellent, led by the brass band
of the Royal Scots, which played extremely well. All the singing was
from the psalms and paraphrases: "Old Hundred" and "Duke Street"
among them. It was very pleasant to hear the old reliables once more.
"McCrae's Covenanters" some of the officers called us; but I should not
like to set our conduct up against the standard of those austere men.

At Lyndenburg:

The Boers opened on us at about 10,000 yards, the fire being accurate
from the first. They shelled us till dark, over three hours. The guns on
our left fired for a long time on Buller's camp, the ones on our right
on us. We could see the smoke and flash; then there was a soul-consuming
interval of 20 to 30 seconds when we would hear the report, and about
five seconds later the burst. Many in succession burst over and all
around us. I picked up pieces which fell within a few feet. It was a
trying afternoon, and we stood around wondering. We moved the horses
back, and took cover under the wagons. We were thankful when the sun
went down, especially as for the last hour of daylight they turned all
their guns on us. The casualties were few.

The next morning a heavy mist prevented the enemy from firing. The
division marched out at 7.30 A.M. The attack was made in three columns:
cavalry brigade on the left; Buller's troops in the centre, Hamilton's
on the right. The Canadian artillery were with Hamilton's division. The
approach to the hill was exposed everywhere except where some cover
was afforded by ridges. We marched out as support to the Gordons, the
cavalry and the Royal Horse Artillery going out to our right as a flank
guard. While we were waiting three 100-pound shells struck the top of
the ridge in succession about 50 to 75 yards in front of the battery
line. We began to feel rather shaky.

On looking over the field at this time one could not tell that anything
was occurring except for the long range guns replying to the fire from
the hill. The enemy had opened fire as soon as our advance was pushed
out. With a glass one could distinguish the infantry pushing up in
lines, five or six in succession, the men being some yards apart. Then
came a long pause, broken only by the big guns. At last we got the order
to advance just as the big guns of the enemy stopped their fire. We
advanced about four miles mostly up the slope, which is in all about
1500 feet high, over a great deal of rough ground and over a number of
spruits. The horses were put to their utmost to draw the guns up the
hills. As we advanced we could see artillery crawling in from both
flanks, all converging to the main hill, while far away the infantry and
cavalry were beginning to crown the heights near us. Then the field
guns and the pompoms began to play. As the field guns came up to a broad
plateau section after section came into action, and we fired shrapnel
and lyddite on the crests ahead and to the left. Every now and then a
rattle of Mausers and Metfords would tell us that the infantry were at
their work, but practically the battle was over. From being an infantry
attack as expected it was the gunners' day, and the artillery seemed to
do excellent work.

General Buller pushed up the hill as the guns were at work, and
afterwards General Hamilton; the one as grim as his pictures, the other
looking very happy. The wind blew through us cold like ice as we stood
on the hill; as the artillery ceased fire the mist dropped over us
chilling us to the bone. We were afraid we should have to spend the
night on the hill, but a welcome order came sending us back to camp, a
distance of five miles by the roads, as Buller would hold the hill, and
our force must march south. Our front was over eight miles wide and the
objective 1500 feet higher than our camp, and over six miles away. If
the enemy had had the nerve to stand, the position could scarcely have
been taken; certainly not without the loss of thousands.

For this campaign he received the Queen's Medal with three clasps.

VI. Children and Animals

Through all his life, and through all his letters, dogs and children
followed him as shadows follow men. To walk in the streets with him was
a slow procession. Every dog and every child one met must be spoken to,
and each made answer. Throughout the later letters the names Bonfire and
Bonneau occur continually. Bonfire was his horse, and Bonneau his dog.

This horse, an Irish hunter, was given to him by John L. Todd. It was
wounded twice, and now lives in honourable retirement at a secret place
which need not be disclosed to the army authorities. One officer who
had visited the hospital writes of seeing him going about the wards with
Bonneau and a small French child following after. In memory of his love
for animals and children the following extracts will serve:

You ask if the wee fellow has a name--Mike, mostly, as a term of
affection. He has found a cupboard in one ward in which oakum is stored,
and he loves to steal in there and "pick oakum", amusing himself as long
as is permitted. I hold that this indicates convict ancestry to which
Mike makes no defence.

The family is very well, even one-eyed Mike is able to go round the yard
in his dressing-gown, so to speak. He is a queer pathetic little beast
and Madame has him "hospitalized" on the bottom shelf of the sideboard
in the living room, whence he comes down (six inches to the floor) to
greet me, and then gravely hirples back, the hind legs looking very
pathetic as he hops in. But he is full of spirit and is doing very well.

As to the animals--"those poor voiceless creatures," say you. I wish you
could hear them. Bonneau and Mike are a perfect Dignity and Impudence;
and both vocal to a wonderful degree. Mike's face is exactly like the
terrier in the old picture, and he sits up and gives his paw just like
Bonneau, and I never saw him have any instruction; and as for voice,
I wish you could hear Bonfire's "whicker" to me in the stable or
elsewhere. It is all but talk. There is one ward door that he tries
whenever we pass. He turns his head around, looks into the door, and
waits. The Sisters in the ward have changed frequently, but all alike
"fall for it", as they say, and produce a biscuit or some such dainty
which Bonfire takes with much gravity and gentleness. Should I chide
him for being too eager and give him my hand saying, "Gentle now," he
mumbles with his lips, and licks with his tongue like a dog to show how
gentle he can be when he tries. Truly a great boy is that same. On this
subject I am like a doting grandmother, but forgive it.

I have a very deep affection for Bonfire, for we have been through so
much together, and some of it bad enough. All the hard spots to which
one's memory turns the old fellow has shared, though he says so little
about it.

This love of animals was no vagrant mood. Fifteen years before in South
Africa he wrote in his diary under date of September 11th, 1900:

I wish I could introduce you to the dogs of the force. The genus dog
here is essentially sociable, and it is a great pleasure to have them
about. I think I have a personal acquaintance with them all. There
are our pups--Dolly, whom I always know by her one black and one white
eyebrow; Grit and Tory, two smaller gentlemen, about the size of a pound
of butter--and fighters; one small white gentleman who rides on a horse,
on the blanket; Kitty, the monkey, also rides the off lead of the forge
wagon. There is a black almond-eyed person belonging to the Royal
Scots, who begins to twist as far as I can see her, and comes up in long
curves, extremely genially. A small shaggy chap who belongs to the Royal
Irish stands upon his hind legs and spars with his front feet--and lots
of others--every one of them "a soldier and a man". The Royal Scots have
a monkey, Jenny, who goes around always trailing a sack in her hand,
into which she creeps if necessary to obtain shelter.

The other day old Jack, my horse, was bitten by his next neighbor; he
turned SLOWLY, eyed his opponent, shifted his rope so that he had a
little more room, turned very deliberately, and planted both heels in
the offender's stomach. He will not be run upon.

From a time still further back comes a note in a like strain. In 1898 he
was house physician in a children's hospital at Mt. Airy, Maryland, when
he wrote:

A kitten has taken up with a poor cripple dying of muscular atrophy who
cannot move. It stays with him all the time, and sleeps most of the
day in his straw hat. To-night I saw the kitten curled up under the
bed-clothes. It seems as if it were a gift of Providence that the little
creature should attach itself to the child who needs it most.

Of another child:

The day she died she called for me all day, deposed the nurse who was
sitting by her, and asked me to remain with her. She had to be held up
on account of lack of breath; and I had a tiring hour of it before she
died, but it seemed to make her happier and was no great sacrifice. Her
friends arrived twenty minutes too late. It seems hard that Death will
not wait the poor fraction of an hour, but so it is.

And here are some letters to his nephews and nieces which reveal his
attitude both to children and to animals.

From Bonfire to Sergt.-Major Jack Kilgour

August 6th, 1916.

Did you ever have a sore hock? I have one now, and Cruickshank puts
bandages on my leg. He also washed my white socks for me. I am glad you
got my picture. My master is well, and the girls tell me I am looking
well, too. The ones I like best give me biscuits and sugar, and
sometimes flowers. One of them did not want to give me some mignonette
the other day because she said it would make me sick. It did not make me
sick. Another one sends me bags of carrots. If you don't know how to eat
carrots, tops and all, you had better learn, but I suppose you are just
a boy, and do not know how good oats are.

                                        BONFIRE His * Mark.

     * Here and later, this mark is that of a horse-shoe.  A. L., 1995.

From Bonfire to Sergt.-Major Jack Kilgour

October 1st, 1916.

Dear Jack,

Did you ever eat blackberries? My master and I pick them every day on
the hedges. I like twenty at a time. My leg is better but I have a lump
on my tummy. I went to see my doctor to-day, and he says it is nothing
at all. I have another horse staying in my stable now; he is black, and
about half my size. He does not keep me awake at night. Yours truly,

                                        BONFIRE His * Mark.

From Bonfire to Margaret Kilgour, Civilian

November 5th, 1916.

Dear Margaret:

This is Guy Fox Day! I spell it that way because fox-hunting was my
occupation a long time ago before the war. How are Sergt.-Major Jack and
Corporal David? Ask Jack if he ever bites through his rope at night, and
gets into the oat-box. And as for the Corporal, "I bet you" I can jump
as far as he can. I hear David has lost his red coat. I still have my
grey one, but it is pretty dirty now, for I have not had a new one for
a long time. I got my hair cut a few weeks ago and am to have new boots
next week. Bonneau and Follette send their love. Yours truly,

                                        BONFIRE His * Mark.

In Flanders, April 3rd, 1915.

My dear Margaret:

There is a little girl in this house whose name is Clothilde. She is ten
years old, and calls me "Monsieur le Major". How would you like it if
twenty or thirty soldiers came along and lived in your house and put
their horses in the shed or the stable? There are not many little boys
and girls left in this part of the country, but occasionally one meets
them on the roads with baskets of eggs or loaves of bread. Most of them
have no homes, for their houses have been burnt by the Germans; but they
do not cry over it. It is dangerous for them, for a shell might hit them
at any time--and it would not be an eggshell, either.

Bonfire is very well. Mother sent him some packets of sugar, and if ever
you saw a big horse excited about a little parcel, it was Bonfire. He
can have only two lumps in any one day, for there is not much of it.
Twice he has had gingerbread and he is very fond of that. It is rather
funny for a soldier-horse, is it not? But soldier horses have a pretty
hard time of it, sometimes, so we do not grudge them a little luxury.
Bonfire's friends are King, and Prince, and Saxonia,--all nice big boys.
If they go away and leave him, he whinnies till he catches sight of
them again, and then he is quite happy. How is the 15th Street Brigade
getting on? Tell Mother I recommend Jack for promotion to corporal if
he has been good. David will have to be a gunner for awhile yet, for
everybody cannot be promoted. Give my love to Katharine, and Jack, and

Your affectionate uncle Jack.

Bonfire, and Bonneau, and little Mike, are all well. Mike is about four
months old and has lost an eye and had a leg broken, but he is a very
good little boy all the same. He is very fond of Bonfire, and Bonneau,
and me. I go to the stable and whistle, and Bonneau and Mike come
running out squealing with joy, to go for a little walk with me. When
Mike comes to steps, he puts his feet on the lowest steps and turns and
looks at me and I lift him up. He is a dear ugly little chap.

The dogs are often to be seen sprawled on the floor of my tent. I like
to have them there for they are very home-like beasts. They never seem
French to me. Bonneau can "donner la patte" in good style nowadays, and
he sometimes curls up inside the rabbit hutch, and the rabbits seem to
like him.

I wish you could see the hundreds of rabbits there are here on the
sand-dunes; there are also many larks and jackdaws. (These are different
from your brother Jack, although they have black faces.) There are
herons, curlews, and even ducks; and the other day I saw four young
weasels in a heap, jumping over each other from side to side as they

Sir Bertrand Dawson has a lovely little spaniel, Sue, quite black, who
goes around with him. I am quite a favourite, and one day Sir Bertrand
said to me, "She has brought you a present," and here she was waiting
earnestly for me to remove from her mouth a small stone. It is usually a
simple gift, I notice, and does not embarrass by its value.

Bonfire is very sleek and trim, and we journey much. If I sit down in
his reach I wish you could see how deftly he can pick off my cap and
swing it high out of my reach. He also carries my crop; his games are
simple, but he does not readily tire of them.

I lost poor old Windy. He was the regimental dog of the 1st Batt.
Lincolns, and came to this vale of Avalon to be healed of his second
wound. He spent a year at Gallipoli and was "over the top" twice with
his battalion. He came to us with his papers like any other patient, and
did very well for a while, but took suddenly worse. He had all that care
and love could suggest and enough morphine to keep the pain down; but he
was very pathetic, and I had resolved that it would be true friendship
to help him over when he "went west". He is buried in our woods like
any other good soldier, and yesterday I noticed that some one has laid
a little wreath of ivy on his grave. He was an old dog evidently, but
we are all sore-hearted at losing him. His kit is kept should his master
return,--only his collar with his honourable marks, for his wardrobe was
of necessity simple. So another sad chapter ends.

September 29th, 1915.

Bonneau gravely accompanies me round the wards and waits for me, sitting
up in a most dignified way. He comes into my tent and sits there very
gravely while I dress. Two days ago a Sister brought out some biscuits
for Bonfire, and not understanding the rules of the game, which are bit
and bit about for Bonfire and Bonneau, gave all to Bonfire, so that
poor Bonneau sat below and caught the crumbs that fell. I can see that
Bonfire makes a great hit with the Sisters because he licks their hands
just like a dog, and no crumb is too small to be gone after.

April, 1917.

I was glad to get back; Bonfire and Bonneau greeted me very
enthusiastically. I had a long long story from the dog, delivered with
uplifted muzzle. They tell me he sat gravely on the roads a great deal
during my absence, and all his accustomed haunts missed him. He is back
on rounds faithfully.

VII. The Old Land and the New

If one were engaged upon a formal work of biography rather than a mere
essay in character, it would be just and proper to investigate the
family sources from which the individual member is sprung; but I must
content myself within the bounds which I have set, and leave the larger
task to a more laborious hand. The essence of history lies in the
character of the persons concerned, rather than in the feats which
they performed. A man neither lives to himself nor in himself. He is
indissolubly bound up with his stock, and can only explain himself in
terms common to his family; but in doing so he transcends the limits of
history, and passes into the realms of philosophy and religion.

The life of a Canadian is bound up with the history of his parish, of
his town, of his province, of his country, and even with the history of
that country in which his family had its birth. The life of John McCrae
takes us back to Scotland. In Canada there has been much writing of
history of a certain kind. It deals with events rather than with the
subtler matter of people, and has been written mainly for purposes of
advertising. If the French made a heroic stand against the Iroquois, the
sacred spot is now furnished with an hotel from which a free 'bus runs
to a station upon the line of an excellent railway. Maisonneuve fought
his great fight upon a place from which a vicious mayor cut the trees
which once sheltered the soldier, to make way for a fountain upon which
would be raised "historical" figures in concrete stone.

The history of Canada is the history of its people, not of its railways,
hotels, and factories. The material exists in written or printed form in
the little archives of many a family. Such a chronicle is in possession
of the Eckford family which now by descent on the female side bears the
honoured names of Gow, and McCrae. John Eckford had two daughters, in
the words of old Jamie Young, "the most lovingest girls he ever knew."
The younger, Janet Simpson, was taken to wife by David McCrae, 21st
January, 1870, and on November 30th, 1872, became the mother of John. To
her he wrote all these letters, glowing with filial devotion, which I am
privileged to use so freely.

There is in the family a tradition of the single name for the males. It
was therefore proper that the elder born should be called Thomas, more
learned in medicine, more assiduous in practice, and more weighty in
intellect even than the otherwise more highly gifted John. He too is
professor of medicine, and co-author of a profound work with his master
and relative by marriage--Sir William Osler. Also, he wore the King's
uniform and served in the present war.

This John Eckford, accompanied by his two daughters, the mother being
dead, his sister, her husband who bore the name of Chisholm, and their
numerous children emigrated to Canada, May 28th, 1851, in the ship
'Clutha' which sailed from the Broomielaw bound for Quebec. The consort,
'Wolfville', upon which they had originally taken passage, arrived in
Quebec before them, and lay in the stream, flying the yellow flag of
quarantine. Cholera had broken out. "Be still, and see the salvation of
the Lord," were the words of the family morning prayers.

In the 'Clutha' also came as passengers James and Mary Gow; their
cousin, one Duncan Monach; Mrs. Hanning, who was a sister of Thomas
Carlyle; and her two daughters. On the voyage they escaped the usual
hardships, and their fare appears to us in these days to have been
abundant. The weekly ration was three quarts of water, two ounces of
tea, one half pound of sugar, one half pound molasses, three pounds
of bread, one pound of flour, two pounds of rice, and five pounds of

The reason for this migration is succinctly stated by the head of the
house. "I know how hard it was for my mother to start me, and I wanted
land for my children and a better opportunity for them." And yet his
parents in their time appear to have "started" him pretty well, although
his father was obliged to confess, "I never had more of this world's
goods than to bring up my family by the labour of my hands honestly,
but it is more than my Master owned, who had not where to lay His head."
They allowed him that very best means of education, a calmness of the
senses, as he herded sheep on the Cheviot Hills. They put him to the
University in Edinburgh, as a preparation for the ministry, and supplied
him with ample oatmeal, peasemeal bannocks, and milk. In that great
school of divinity he learned the Hebrew, Greek, and Latin; he studied
Italian, and French under Surenne, him of blessed memory even unto this

John Eckford in 1839 married Margaret Christie, and he went far afield
for a wife, namely from Newbiggin in Forfar, where for fourteen years
he had his one and only charge, to Strathmiglo in Fife. The marriage was
fruitful and a happy one, although there is a hint in the record of some
religious difference upon which one would like to dwell if the subject
were not too esoteric for this generation. The minister showed a
certain indulgence, and so long as his wife lived he never employed the
paraphrases in the solemn worship of the sanctuary. She was a woman of
provident mind. Shortly after they were married he made the discovery
that she had prepared the grave clothes for him as well as for herself.
Too soon, after only eight years, it was her fate to be shrouded in
them. After her death--probably because of her death--John Eckford
emigrated to Canada.

To one who knows the early days in Canada there is nothing new in
the story of this family. They landed in Montreal July 11th, 1851,
forty-four days out from Glasgow. They proceeded by steamer to Hamilton,
the fare being about a dollar for each passenger. The next stage was
to Guelph; then on to Durham, and finally they came to the end of their
journeying near Walkerton in Bruce County in the primeval forest, from
which they cut out a home for themselves and for their children.

It was "the winter of the deep snow". One transcription from the record
will disclose the scene:

    At length a grave was dug on a knoll in the bush
    at the foot of a great maple with a young snow-laden hemlock at the side.
    The father and the eldest brother carried the box
    along the shovelled path.  The mother close behind was followed
    by the two families.  The snow was falling heavily.  At the grave
    John Eckford read a psalm, and prayed, "that they might be enabled
    to believe, the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting
    unto them that fear Him."

John McCrae himself was an indefatigable church-goer. There is a note in
childish characters written from Edinburgh in his thirteenth year, "On
Sabbath went to service four times." There the statement stands in all
its austerity. A letter from a chaplain is extant in which a certain
mild wonder is expressed at the regularity in attendance of an officer
of field rank. To his sure taste in poetry the hymns were a sore trial.
"Only forty minutes are allowed for the service," he said, "and it is
sad to see them 'snappit up' by these poor bald four-line things."

On Easter Sunday, 1915, he wrote: "We had a church parade this morning,
the first since we arrived in France. Truly, if the dead rise not, we
are of all men the most miserable." On the funeral service of a friend
he remarks: "'Forasmuch as it hath pleased Almighty God,'--what a
summary of the whole thing that is!" On many occasions he officiated in
the absence of the chaplains who in those days would have as many as
six services a day. In civil life in Montreal he went to church in the
evening, and sat under the Reverend James Barclay of St. Pauls, now
designated by some at least as St. Andrews.

VIII. The Civil Years

It will be observed in this long relation of John McCrae that little
mention has yet been made of what after all was his main concern in
life. For twenty years he studied and practised medicine. To the end
he was an assiduous student and a very profound practitioner. He was
a student, not of medicine alone, but of all subjects ancillary to
the science, and to the task he came with a mind braced by a sound and
generous education. Any education of real value a man must have received
before he has attained to the age of seven years. Indeed he may be left
impervious to its influence at seven weeks. John McCrae's education
began well. It began in the time of his two grandfathers at least, was
continued by his father and mother before he came upon this world's
scene, and by them was left deep founded for him to build upon.

Noble natures have a repugnance from work. Manual labour is servitude.
A day of idleness is a holy day. For those whose means do not permit
to live in idleness the school is the only refuge; but they must prove
their quality. This is the goal which drives many Scotch boys to the
University, scorning delights and willing to live long, mind-laborious

John McCrae's father felt bound "to give the boy a chance," but the boy
must pass the test. The test in such cases is the Shorter Catechism,
that compendium of all intellectual argument. How the faithful aspirant
for the school acquires this body of written knowledge at a time when
he has not yet learned the use of letters is a secret not to be lightly
disclosed. It may indeed be that already his education is complete. Upon
the little book is always printed the table of multiples, so that the
obvious truth which is comprised in the statement, "two by two makes
four", is imputed to the contents which are within the cover. In
studying the table the catechism is learned surreptitiously, and
therefore without self-consciousness.

So, in this well ordered family with its atmosphere of obedience, we
may see the boy, like a youthful Socrates going about with a copy of the
book in his hand, enquiring of those, who could already read, not alone
what were the answers to the questions but the very questions themselves
to which an answer was demanded.

This learning, however, was only a minor part of life, since upon a
farm life is very wide and very deep. In due time the school was
accomplished, and there was a master in the school--let his name be
recorded--William Tytler, who had a feeling for English writing and a
desire to extend that feeling to others.

In due time also the question of a University arose. There was a man
in Canada named Dawson--Sir William Dawson. I have written of him in
another place. He had the idea that a university had something to do
with the formation of character, and that in the formation of character
religion had a part. He was principal of McGill. I am not saying that
all boys who entered that University were religious boys when they went
in, or even religious men when they came out; but religious fathers had
a general desire to place their boys under Sir William Dawson's care.

Those were the days of a queer, and now forgotten, controversy over
what was called "Science and Religion". Of that also I have written in
another place. It was left to Sir William Dawson to deliver the last
word in defence of a cause that was already lost. His book came under
the eye of David McCrae, as most books of the time did, and he was
troubled in his heart. His boys were at the University of Toronto. It
was too late; but he eased his mind by writing a letter. To this letter
John replies under date 20th December, 1890: "You say that after reading
Dawson's book you almost regretted that we had not gone to McGill. That,
I consider, would have been rather a calamity, about as much so as going
to Queen's." We are not always wiser than our fathers were, and in the
end he came to McGill after all.

For good or ill, John McCrae entered the University of Toronto in 1888,
with a scholarship for "general proficiency". He joined the Faculty of
Arts, took the honours course in natural sciences, and graduated from
the department of biology in 1894, his course having been interrupted
by two severe illnesses. From natural science, it was an easy step to
medicine, in which he was encouraged by Ramsay Wright, A. B. Macallum,
A. McPhedran, and I. H. Cameron. In 1898 he graduated again, with a
gold medal, and a scholarship in physiology and pathology. The previous
summer he had spent at the Garrett Children's Hospital in Mt. Airy,

Upon graduating he entered the Toronto General Hospital as resident
house officer; in 1899 he occupied a similar post at Johns Hopkins. Then
he came to McGill University as fellow in pathology and pathologist to
the Montreal General Hospital. In time he was appointed physician to the
Alexandra Hospital for infectious diseases; later assistant physician to
the Royal Victoria Hospital, and lecturer in medicine in the University.
By examination he became a member of the Royal College of Physicians,
London. In 1914 he was elected a member of the Association of American
Physicians. These are distinctions won by few in the profession.

In spite, or rather by reason, of his various attainments John McCrae
never developed, or degenerated, into the type of the pure scientist.
For the laboratory he had neither the mind nor the hands. He never
peered at partial truths so closely as to mistake them for the whole
truth; therefore, he was unfitted for that purely scientific career
which was developed to so high a pitch of perfection in that nation
which is now no longer mentioned amongst men. He wrote much, and
often, upon medical problems. The papers bearing his name amount to
thirty-three items in the catalogues. They testify to his industry
rather than to invention and discovery, but they have made his name
known in every text-book of medicine.

Apart from his verse, and letters, and diaries, and contributions to
journals and books of medicine, with an occasional address to students
or to societies, John McCrae left few writings, and in these there is
nothing remarkable by reason of thought or expression. He could not
write prose. Fine as was his ear for verse he could not produce that
finer rhythm of prose, which comes from the fall of proper words in
proper sequence. He never learned that if a writer of prose takes care
of the sound the sense will take care of itself. He did not scrutinize
words to discover their first and fresh meaning. He wrote in phrases,
and used words at second-hand as the journalists do. Bullets "rained";
guns "swept"; shells "hailed"; events "transpired", and yet his
appreciation of style in others was perfect, and he was an insatiable
reader of the best books. His letters are strewn with names of authors
whose worth time has proved. To specify them would merely be to write
the catalogue of a good library.

The thirteen years with which this century opened were the period in
which John McCrae established himself in civil life in Montreal and in
the profession of medicine. Of this period he has left a chronicle which
is at once too long and too short.

All lives are equally interesting if only we are in possession of all
the facts. Places like Oxford and Cambridge have been made interesting
because the people who live in them are in the habit of writing, and
always write about each other. Family letters have little interest
even for the family itself, if they consist merely of a recital of the
trivial events of the day. They are prized for the unusual and for the
sentiment they contain. Diaries also are dull unless they deal with
selected incidents; and selection is the essence of every art. Few
events have any interest in themselves, but any event can be made
interesting by the pictorial or literary art.

When he writes to his mother, that, as he was coming out of the
college, an Irish setter pressed a cold nose against his hand, that is
interesting because it is unusual. If he tells us that a professor took
him by the arm, there is no interest in that to her or to any one else.
For that reason the ample letters and diaries which cover these years
need not detain us long. There is in them little selection, little
art--too much professor and too little dog.

It is, of course, the business of the essayist to select; but in the
present case there is little to choose. He tells of invitations to
dinner, accepted, evaded, or refused; but he does not always tell who
were there, what he thought of them, or what they had to eat. Dinner
at the Adami's,--supper at Ruttan's,--a night with Owen,--tea at the
Reford's,--theatre with the Hickson's,--a reception at the Angus's,--or
a dance at the Allan's,--these events would all be quite meaningless
without an exposition of the social life of Montreal, which is too large
a matter to undertake, alluring as the task would be. Even then, one
would be giving one's own impressions and not his.

Wherever he lived he was a social figure. When he sat at table the
dinner was never dull. The entertainment he offered was not missed by
the dullest intelligence. His contribution was merely "stories", and
these stories in endless succession were told in a spirit of frank fun.
They were not illustrative, admonitory, or hortatory. They were just
amusing, and always fresh. This gift he acquired from his mother, who
had that rare charm of mimicry without mockery, and caricature without
malice. In all his own letters there is not an unkind comment or tinge
of ill-nature, although in places, especially in later years, there is
bitter indignation against those Canadian patriots who were patriots
merely for their bellies' sake.

Taken together his letters and diaries are a revelation of the heroic
struggle by which a man gains a footing in a strange place in that most
particular of all professions, a struggle comprehended by those alone
who have made the trial of it. And yet the method is simple. It is all
disclosed in his words, "I have never refused any work that was given me
to do." These records are merely a chronicle of work. Outdoor clinics,
laboratory tasks, post-mortems, demonstrating, teaching, lecturing,
attendance upon the sick in wards and homes, meetings, conventions,
papers, addresses, editing, reviewing,--the very remembrance of such a
career is enough to appall the stoutest heart.

But John McCrae was never appalled. He went about his work gaily, never
busy, never idle. Each minute was pressed into the service, and every
hour was made to count. In the first eight months of practice he
claims to have made ninety dollars. It is many years before we hear him
complain of the drudgery of sending out accounts, and sighing for the
services of a bookkeeper. This is the only complaint that appears in his

There were at the time in Montreal two rival schools, and are yet two
rival hospitals. But John McCrae was of no party. He was the friend of
all men, and the confidant of many. He sought nothing for himself and by
seeking not he found what he most desired. His mind was single and his
intention pure; his acts unsullied by selfish thought; his aim was true
because it was steady and high. His aid was never sought for any cause
that was unworthy, and those humorous eyes could see through the bones
to the marrow of a scheme. In spite of his singular innocence, or rather
by reason of it, he was the last man in the world to be imposed upon.

In all this devastating labour he never neglected the assembling of
himself together with those who write and those who paint. Indeed, he
had himself some small skill in line and colour. His hands were the
hands of an artist--too fine and small for a body that weighted 180
pounds, and measured more than five feet eleven inches in height. There
was in Montreal an institution known as "The Pen and Pencil Club". No
one now living remembers a time when it did not exist. It was a peculiar
club. It contained no member who should not be in it; and no one was
left out who should be in. The number was about a dozen. For twenty
years the club met in Dyonnet's studio, and afterwards, as the result
of some convulsion, in K. R. Macpherson's. A ceremonial supper was eaten
once a year, at which one dressed the salad, one made the coffee, and
Harris sang a song. Here all pictures were first shown, and writings
read--if they were not too long. If they were, there was in an adjoining
room a tin chest, which in these austere days one remembers with
refreshment. When John McCrae was offered membership he "grabbed at
it", and the place was a home for the spirit wearied by the week's work.
There Brymner and the other artists would discourse upon writings, and
Burgess and the other writers would discourse upon pictures.

It is only with the greatest of resolution, fortified by lack of time
and space, that I have kept myself to the main lines of his career, and
refrained from following him into by-paths and secret, pleasant places;
but I shall not be denied just one indulgence. In the great days when
Lord Grey was Governor-General he formed a party to visit Prince Edward
Island. The route was a circuitous one. It began at Ottawa; it extended
to Winnipeg, down the Nelson River to York Factory, across Hudson Bay,
down the Strait, by Belle Isle and Newfoundland, and across the Gulf
of St. Lawrence to a place called Orwell. Lord Grey in the matter of
company had the reputation of doing himself well. John McCrae was of the
party. It also included John Macnaughton, L. S. Amery, Lord Percy, Lord
Lanesborough, and one or two others. The ship had called at North Sydney
where Lady Grey and the Lady Evelyn joined.

Through the place in a deep ravine runs an innocent stream which
broadens out into still pools, dark under the alders. There was a rod--a
very beautiful rod in two pieces. It excited his suspicion. It was put
into his hand, the first stranger hand that ever held it; and the first
cast showed that it was a worthy hand. The sea-trout were running that
afternoon. Thirty years before, in that memorable visit to Scotland,
he had been taken aside by "an old friend of his grandfather's". It was
there he learned "to love the trooties". The love and the art never left
him. It was at this same Orwell his brother first heard the world called
to arms on that early August morning in 1914.

In those civil years there were, of course, diversions: visits to the
United States and meetings with notable men--Welch, Futcher, Hurd,
White, Howard, Barker: voyages to Europe with a detailed itinerary upon
the record; walks and rides upon the mountain; excursion in winter to
the woods, and in summer to the lakes; and one visit to the Packards
in Maine, with the sea enthusiastically described. Upon those woodland
excursions and upon many other adventures his companion is often
referred to as "Billy T.", who can be no other than Lieut.-Col. W. G.
Turner, "M.C."

Much is left out of the diary that we would wish to have recorded.
There is tantalizing mention of "conversations" with Shepherd--with
Roddick--with Chipman--with Armstrong--with Gardner--with Martin--with
Moyse. Occasionally there is a note of description: "James Mavor is a
kindly genius with much knowledge"; "Tait McKenzie presided ideally" at
a Shakespeare dinner; "Stephen Leacock does not keep all the good things
for his publisher." Those who know the life in Montreal may well for
themselves supply the details.

IX. Dead in His Prime

John McCrae left the front after the second battle of Ypres, and never
returned. On June 1st, 1915, he was posted to No. 3 General Hospital
at Boulogne, a most efficient unit organized by McGill University and
commanded by that fine soldier Colonel H. S. Birkett, C.B. He was placed
in charge of medicine, with the rank of Lieut.-Colonel as from April
17th, 1915, and there he remained until his death.

At first he did not relish the change. His heart was with the guns. He
had transferred from the artillery to the medical service as recently
as the previous autumn, and embarked a few days afterwards at Quebec,
on the 29th of September, arriving at Davenport, October 20th, 1914.
Although he was attached as Medical Officer to the 1st Brigade of
Artillery, he could not forget that he was no longer a gunner, and in
those tumultuous days he was often to be found in the observation post
rather than in his dressing station. He had inherited something of
the old army superciliousness towards a "non-combatant" service, being
unaware that in this war the battle casualties in the medical corps were
to be higher than in any other arm of the service. From South Africa he
wrote exactly fifteen years before: "I am glad that I am not 'a medical'
out here. No 'R.A.M.C.' or any other 'M.C.' for me. There is a big
breach, and the medicals are on the far side of it." On August 7th,
1915, he writes from his hospital post, "I expect to wish often that I
had stuck by the artillery." But he had no choice.

Of this period of his service there is little written record. He merely
did his work, and did it well, as he always did what his mind found to
do. His health was failing. He suffered from the cold. A year before his
death he writes on January 25th, 1917:

The cruel cold is still holding. Everyone is suffering, and the men
in the wards in bed cannot keep warm. I know of nothing so absolutely
pitiless as weather. Let one wish; let one pray; do what one will; still
the same clear sky and no sign,--you know the cold brand of sunshine.
For my own part I do not think I have ever been more uncomfortable.
Everything is so cold that it hurts to pick it up. To go to bed is a
nightmare and to get up a worse one. I have heard of cold weather in
Europe, and how the poor suffer,--now I know!

All his life he was a victim of asthma. The first definite attack was
in the autumn of 1894, and the following winter it recurred with
persistence. For the next five years his letters abound in references
to the malady. After coming to Montreal it subsided; but he always felt
that the enemy was around the corner. He had frequent periods in bed;
but he enjoyed the relief from work and the occasion they afforded for
rest and reading.

In January, 1918, minutes begin to appear upon his official file
which were of great interest to him, and to us. Colonel Birkett had
relinquished command of the unit to resume his duties as Dean of the
Medical Faculty of McGill University. He was succeeded by that veteran
soldier, Colonel J. M. Elder, C.M.G. At the same time the command of No.
1 General Hospital fell vacant. Lieut.-Colonel McCrae was required
for that post; but a higher honour was in store, namely the place of
Consultant to the British Armies in the Field. All these events, and
the final great event, are best recorded in the austere official
correspondence which I am permitted to extract from the files:

    From D.M.S. Canadian Contingents.  (Major-General C. L. Foster, C.B.).
    To O.C. No. 3 General Hospital, B.E.F., 13th December, 1917:
    There is a probability of the command of No. 1 General Hospital
    becoming vacant.  It is requested, please, that you obtain
    from Lieut.-Col. J. McCrae his wishes in the matter.  If he is available,
    and willing to take over this command, it is proposed to offer it to him.

    O.C. No. 3 General Hospital, B.E.F., To D.M.S. Canadian Contingents,
    28th December, 1917:  Lieut.-Colonel McCrae desires me to say that,
    while he naturally looks forward to succeeding to the command
    of this unit, he is quite willing to comply with your desire,
    and will take command of No. 1 General Hospital at any time you may wish.

    D.G.M.S. British Armies in France.  To D.M.S. Canadian Contingents,
    January 2nd, 1918:  It is proposed to appoint Lieut.-Colonel J. McCrae,
    now serving with No. 3 Canadian General Hospital, Consulting Physician
    to the British Armies in France.  Notification of this appointment,
    when made, will be sent to you in due course.

    D.M.S. Canadian Contingents.  To O.C. No. 3 General Hospital, B.E.F.,
    January 5th, 1918:  Since receiving your letter I have information
    from G.H.Q. that they will appoint a Consultant Physician
    to the British Armies in the Field, and have indicated their desire
    for Lieut.-Colonel McCrae for this duty.  This is a much higher honour
    than commanding a General Hospital, and I hope he will take the post,
    as this is a position I have long wished should be filled
    by a C.A.M.C. officer.

    D.M.S. Canadian Contingents.  To D.G.M.S., G.H.Q., 2nd Echelon,
    January 15th, 1918:  I fully concur in this appointment, and consider
    this officer will prove his ability as an able Consulting Physician.

    Telegram:  D.G.M.S., G.H.Q., 2nd Echelon.  To D.M.S. Canadian Contingents,
    January 18th, 1918:  Any objection to Lieut.-Col. J. McCrae
    being appointed Consulting Physician to British Armies in France.
    If appointed, temporary rank of Colonel recommended.

    Telegram:  O.C. No. 3 General Hospital, B.E.F.  To D.M.S.
    Canadian Contingents, January 27th, 1918:  Lieut.-Col. John McCrae
    seriously ill with pneumonia at No. 14 General Hospital.

    Telegram:  O.C. No. 14 General Hospital.  To O.C. No. 3 General Hospital,
    B.E.F., January 28th, 1918:  Lieut.-Col. John McCrae died this morning.

This was the end. For him the war was finished and all the glory of the
world had passed.

Henceforth we are concerned not with the letters he wrote, but with
the letters which were written about him. They came from all quarters,
literally in hundreds, all inspired by pure sympathy, but some tinged
with a curiosity which it is hoped this writing will do something to

Let us first confine ourselves to the facts. They are all contained in a
letter which Colonel Elder wrote to myself in common with other friends.
On Wednesday, January 23rd, he was as usual in the morning; but in the
afternoon Colonel Elder found him asleep in his chair in the mess room.
"I have a slight headache," he said. He went to his quarters. In
the evening he was worse, but had no increase of temperature, no
acceleration of pulse or respiration. At this moment the order arrived
for him to proceed forthwith as Consulting Physician of the First Army.
Colonel Elder writes, "I read the order to him, and told him I should
announce the contents at mess. He was very much pleased over the
appointment. We discussed the matter at some length, and I took his
advice upon measures for carrying on the medical work of the unit."

Next morning he was sleeping soundly, but later on he professed to be
much better. He had no fever, no cough, no pain. In the afternoon he
sent for Colonel Elder, and announced that he had pneumonia. There were
no signs in the chest; but the microscope revealed certain organisms
which rather confirmed the diagnosis. The temperature was rising. Sir
Bertrand Dawson was sent for. He came by evening from Wimereux, but he
could discover no physical signs. In the night the temperature continued
to rise, and he complained of headache. He was restless until the
morning, "when he fell into a calm, untroubled sleep."

Next morning, being Friday, he was removed by ambulance to No. 14
General Hospital at Wimereux. In the evening news came that he was
better; by the morning the report was good, a lowered temperature and
normal pulse. In the afternoon the condition grew worse; there were
signs of cerebral irritation with a rapid, irregular pulse; his mind was
quickly clouded. Early on Sunday morning the temperature dropped, and
the heart grew weak; there was an intense sleepiness. During the day the
sleep increased to coma, and all knew the end was near.

His friends had gathered. The choicest of the profession was there, but
they were helpless. He remained unconscious, and died at half past one
on Monday morning. The cause of death was double pneumonia with massive
cerebral infection. Colonel Elder's letter concludes: "We packed his
effects in a large box, everything that we thought should go to his
people, and Gow took it with him to England to-day." Walter Gow was his
cousin, a son of that Gow who sailed with the Eckfords from Glasgow
in the 'Clutha'. At the time he was Deputy Minister in London of the
Overseas Military Forces of Canada. He had been sent for but arrived too
late;--all was so sudden.

The funeral was held on Tuesday afternoon, January 29th, at the cemetery
in Wimereux. The burial was made with full military pomp. From the
Canadian Corps came Lieut.-General Sir Arthur Currie, the
General Officer Commanding; Major-General E. W. B. Morrison, and
Brigadier-General W. O. H. Dodds, of the Artillery. Sir A. T. Sloggett,
the Director-General of Medical Services, and his Staff were waiting at
the grave. All Commanding Officers at the Base, and all Deputy Directors
were there. There was also a deputation from the Harvard Unit headed by
Harvey Cushing.

Bonfire went first, led by two grooms, and decked in the regulation
white ribbon, not the least pathetic figure in the sad procession.
A hundred nursing Sisters in caps and veils stood in line, and then
proceeded in ambulances to the cemetery, where they lined up again.
Seventy-five of the personnel from the Hospital acted as escort, and six
Sergeants bore the coffin from the gates to the grave. The firing party
was in its place. Then followed the chief mourners, Colonel Elder and
Sir Bertrand Dawson; and in their due order, the rank and file of No.
3 with their officers; the rank and file of No. 14 with their officers;
all officers from the Base, with Major-General Wilberforce and the
Deputy Directors to complete.

It was a springtime day, and those who have passed all those winters in
France and in Flanders will know how lovely the springtime may be. So
we may leave him, "on this sunny slope, facing the sunset and the
sea." These are the words used by one of the nurses in a letter to a
friend,--those women from whom no heart is hid. She also adds: "The
nurses lamented that he became unconscious so quickly they could not
tell him how much they cared. To the funeral all came as we did, because
we loved him so."

At first there was the hush of grief and the silence of sudden shock.
Then there was an outbreak of eulogy, of appraisement, and sorrow. No
attempt shall be made to reproduce it here; but one or two voices may
be recorded in so far as in disjointed words they speak for all. Stephen
Leacock, for those who write, tells of his high vitality and splendid
vigour--his career of honour and marked distinction--his life filled
with honourable endeavour and instinct with the sense of duty--a sane
and equable temperament--whatever he did, filled with sure purpose and
swift conviction.

Dr. A. D. Blackader, acting Dean of the Medical Faculty of McGill
University, himself speaking from out of the shadow, thus appraises his
worth: "As a teacher, trusted and beloved; as a colleague, sincere and
cordial; as a physician, faithful, cheerful, kind. An unkind word he
never uttered." Oskar Klotz, himself a student, testifies that the
relationship was essentially one of master and pupil. From the head of
his first department at McGill, Professor, now Colonel, Adami, comes the
weighty phrase, that he was sound in diagnosis; as a teacher inspiring;
that few could rise to his high level of service.

There is yet a deeper aspect of this character with which we are
concerned; but I shrink from making the exposition, fearing lest with my
heavy literary tread I might destroy more than I should discover. When
one stands by the holy place wherein dwells a dead friend's soul--the
word would slip out at last--it becomes him to take off the shoes from
off his feet. But fortunately the dilemma does not arise. The task
has already been performed by one who by God has been endowed with the
religious sense, and by nature enriched with the gift of expression;
one who in his high calling has long been acquainted with the grief
of others, and is now himself a man of sorrow, having seen with
understanding eyes,

    These great days range like tides,
    And leave our dead on every shore.

On February 14th, 1918, a Memorial Service was held in the Royal
Victoria College. Principal Sir William Peterson presided. John
Macnaughton gave the address in his own lovely and inimitable words, to
commemorate one whom he lamented, "so young and strong, in the prime of
life, in the full ripeness of his fine powers, his season of fruit and
flower bearing. He never lost the simple faith of his childhood. He
was so sure about the main things, the vast things, the indispensable
things, of which all formulated faiths are but a more or less stammering
expression, that he was content with the rough embodiment in which
his ancestors had laboured to bring those great realities to bear as
beneficent and propulsive forces upon their own and their children's
minds and consciences. His instinctive faith sufficed him."

To his own students John McCrae once quoted the legend from a picture,
to him "the most suggestive picture in the world": What I spent I had:
what I saved I lost: what I gave I have;--and he added: "It will be in
your power every day to store up for yourselves treasures that will
come back to you in the consciousness of duty well done, of kind acts
performed, things that having given away freely you yet possess. It has
often seemed to me that when in the Judgement those surprised faces look
up and say, Lord, when saw we Thee an' hungered and fed Thee; or thirsty
and gave Thee drink; a stranger, and took Thee in; naked and clothed
Thee; and there meets them that warrant-royal of all charity, Inasmuch
as ye did it unto one of the least of these, ye have done it unto Me,
there will be amongst those awed ones many a practitioner of medicine."

And finally I shall conclude this task to which I have set a worn but
willing hand, by using again the words which once I used before: Beyond
all consideration of his intellectual attainments John McCrae was
the well beloved of his friends. He will be missed in his place; and
wherever his companions assemble there will be for them a new poignancy
in the Miltonic phrase,

    But O the heavy change, now thou art gone,
    Now thou art gone, and never must return!


11th November, 1918.

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