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 a 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 uncountered:
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 shall remember them.

They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables at 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 are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end they remain.

- Laurence Binyon, 1914


As a New Zealander, I am well acquainted with this poem, and more specifically stanza four. As a young student, my entire class was asked to memorize this as part of an ANZAC day rememberance. There's something about this poem that makes it seem important, some fundamental part. It's subject is certainly this fundamental part, being, of course, Binyon's experience in World War I. It is not a poem about the horror of war, not exactly. But neither is it one that glorifies war. It is simply a prayer from the fallen to the living to remember their sacrifice, which is why it is read at ANZAC day services. It is a patriotic poem, and simply written. In this way, it is accessible to any reader who cares to peruse its lines. The use of personification for obscurity such as death gives the poem a immediacy, and it certainly trascends time. In all, it is a beautiful and justly famous piece. We shall remember them.

This poem lies within public domain (thank you, Lometa).
Reference: http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/FWWliterature.htm


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