Irish compromise – Poppy symbolism

Around this time of the year there occurs a debate about the symbolism behind the poppy, the flower that grew on the Western Front battlefields of France and Belgium in the aftermath of the First World War.

The wearing of the poppy to commemorate soldiers who died in the conflict is a divisive issue in Ireland, while in Britain it is considered shameful to be seen without one.

The Taoiseach has taken to wearing the shamrock poppy. It is a good and respectful compromise, as it commemorates the 35,000 Irishmen who died in the war without glorifying the imperialsim that contributed to it.

Irish people may also feel distanced from the recitations of the work of English poets often heard at Remembrance Day memorial events. If so, the words of the Irish war poet Francis Ledwidge would make a good substitute. A proud Irish nationalist, he died in July 1917 during the battle of Ypres.

His A Soldier’s Grave is poignant:

And where the earth was soft for flowers we made
A grave for him that he might better rest.


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