To drape around your helmet - hide out anywhere at all.
We'll remember when you're no more than a poem on a grave -
A sideline for the guy who writes the birthday cards but never signs his name.
He's got your number, feels your pain...
Though you're smiling from the mantel-piece
And you've got your rifle trained.
It's pointing at the TV Shall we tell you when to fire?
There's a programme we all hate... it's not a late show so you won't be tired.
We remember how you loved the war films,
And hid behind the sofa throwing balls of silver paper.
We remember. We remember. We've got our poppies on.
We hear the clock chime out eleven. We remember, we remember it's Poppy Day.
(You shall not grow old!)
Poppy Day (1)
We'll remember when that wreath is just a crown of thorns to drape around your helmet (2) - hide out anywhere at all. We'll remember when you're no more than a poem on a grave - a sideline for the guy who writes the birthday cards but never signs his name. (3) He's got your number, feels your pain... though you're smiling from the mantel-piece and you've got your rifle trained. (4) It's pointing at the T.V. Shall we tell you when to fire? There's a programme we all hate... it's not a late show so you won't be tired. (5) We remember how you loved the war films, and hid behind the sofa throwing balls of silver paper. (6) We remember. We remember. We've got our poppies on. We hear the clock chime out eleven. (7) We remember, we remember it's Poppy Day. (You shall not grow old!) (8)
(1) Remembrance Day – also known as Poppy Day, Armistice Day (the event it commemorates) or Veterans Day – is a day to commemorate the sacrifices of members of the armed forces and of civilians in times of war, specifically since the First World War. It is observed on 11 November to recall the end of World War I on that date in 1918. (Major hostilities of World War I were formally ended at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918 with the German signing of the Armistice.)
The poppy's significance to Remembrance Day is a result of Canadian military physician John McCrae's poem "In Flanders Fields". The poppy emblem was chosen because of the poppies that bloomed across some of the worst battlefields of Flanders in World War I, their red colour an appropriate symbol for the bloodshed of trench warfare. An American YMCA Overseas War Secretaries employee, Moina Michael, was inspired to make 25 silk poppies based on McCrae's poem, which she distributed to attendees of the YMCA Overseas War Secretaries' Conference. She then made an effort to have the poppy adopted as a national symbol of remembrance, and succeeded in having the National American Legion Conference adopt it two years later. At this conference, a Frenchwoman, Anna E. Guérin, was inspired to introduce the widely used artificial poppies given out today. In 1921 she sent her poppy sellers to London, England, where they were adopted by Field Marshall Douglas Haig, a founder of the Royal British Legion, as well as by veterans' groups in Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Some people choose to wear white poppies, which emphasises a desire for peaceful alternatives to military action.
(2) Here, the wreath draped around a dead soldier's helmet is compared to the crown of thorns that Jesus of Nazareth was forced to wear during his crucifixion.
(3) Comparing an epitaph to an anonymously written birthday card evokes the impersonal attitudes that are often applied to huge numbers of the dead in war.
True to it's title, the song remembers a hypothetical soldier as a symbol of all deceased soldiers. (Or it may not be hypothetical, but a personal friend of the band)
(4) A picture of the dead soldier sits on the mantlepiece, enthusiastically pointing a rifle.
(5) The hope here is that the figure in the picture on the mantlepiece will shoot the television - probably when it is showing the news, since this is not a late show, and the news is usually full of information about wars.
(6) The soldier is remembered as a youth, loving war films, but hiding behind the sofa in fright of them. (Kids in Britain were said to hide behind the sofa during the scarier parts of the television show Doctor Who). Balls of silver paper could be wrapping paper such as gum wrappers - see notes on the song "Regression", from the album "The Golden Age"
(7) The clock chimes out 11 because of when World War I officialy ended.
(8) Our hypothetical dead soldier will not grow old, because he will not get a chance to, but he will live on by being remembered forever the way he was.
Poppy Day (Live 1987)