Last Monday (4th August) marked a momentous anniversary – exactly 100 years since Britain entered into World War One after the invasion of Belgium. The centenary brought forth some poignant scenes, most markedly the turning off of millions of lights around the country leading up to the same hour that war was officially declared within the country.
At services around the country, poems were read as well as prayers and an especially fitting choice is this week’s Featured Poem by Robert Laurence Binyon. Perhaps one of the most famous poems to emerge from ‘The Great War’, For The Fallen has been claimed as a remembrance for all casualties of war. Though he was too old to serve, Binyon contributed to the war effort by volunteering at a British hospital for French soldiers. He is also one of the 16 Great War poets commemorated at Poets’ Corner in Westminster Abbey.
As well known as it may be, this poem is worthwhile reflecting on, especially so at this point in time.
For The Fallen
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.
Robert Laurence Binyon