Saturday, November 10, 2007

Remembrance Day offering

The most famous English Great War poem, or perhaps the one most often recited now, is Lawrence Binyon's "For the Fallen." It is as much a part of British war commemorations as the cross of sacrifice, or the oft-repeated words on the stones of remembrance, "Their name liveth forevermore." This poem will no doubt be recited tomorrow, at the Cenotaph near Whitehall in London, the site of the yearly Remembrance Day celebrations. The most famous lines, those known by every citizen of the UK, begin, "They shall not grow old, as we who are left grow old...," but it is terribly moving in its totality. The United Kingdom lost over a million young men in World War I, most of whom lie in the earth of northeastern France and northwestern Belgium.

With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,
England mourns for her dead across the sea.
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit,
Fallen in the cause of the free.

Solemn the drums thrill; Death august and royal
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres,
There is music in the midst of desolation
And a glory that shines upon our tears.

They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted;
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England's foam.

But where our desires are and our hopes profound,
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known
As the stars are known to the Night;

As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain;
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end, they remain.

Yes, we will remember them.

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