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Flanders Poppies Blow Up Furor in Canada

February 11, 2001|From Associated Press

OTTAWA — Canadians know that Flanders Fields contain poppies, but whether they grow or blow is in question with the issuing of a new $10 bill.

The new currency, in circulation since Jan. 17, has the opening verse of Canadian poet John McCrae's famous World War I poem, "In Flanders Fields," on the back:

"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."

Once the notes hit the streets, though, the Bank of Canada began receiving calls from people--including schoolteachers--convinced the first line should be "In Flanders Fields the poppies grow," said bank spokesman Joe Basile.

Although the version on the bill is correct, Basile said he understands the confusion and was wrong himself about exactly what the poppies did.

"When I thought about the poem, I thought of it in terms of 'where poppies grow,' " he said. "So it's not all that surprising that there is that misconception out there."

The source of the confusion remains unclear, though it well may have been a simple mistake that became a popular misconception. Basile said the text on the bill was taken from a copy of McCrae's handwritten manuscript obtained from government archives.

The poem was written under fire during the war. McCrae died of pneumonia in 1918.

Poppies traditionally have been sold by veterans around Memorial and Veterans days. The flower became linked to the war dead through McCrae's poem saluting soldiers killed in France in World War I.

Basile said money collectors hoping that the new $10 bills would be recalled were mistaken.

"There's always people looking for a misprint because it increases the value of the note," he said. In this case, though, "there is no misprint and there is no recall."

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