On Remberence Day, for all those I never knew and for those of my colleagues and friends in recent times.
They went with songs to the battle, they were young.
Straight of limb, true of eyes, 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.
The "Ode of Remembrance" is an ode taken from Laurence Binyon's poem, "For the Fallen", which was first published in The Times in September 1914.
'For The Fallen' plaque with The Rumps promontory beyond
The poet wrote For the Fallen, which has seven stanzas, while sitting on the cliffs between Pentire Point and The Rumps in north Cornwall, UK. A stone plaque was erected at the spot in 2001 to commemorate the fact. The plaque bears the inscription:
For the Fallen
Composed on these cliffs 1914
There is also a plaque on the beehive monument on the East Cliff above Portreath in central North Cornwall which cites that as the place where Binyon composed the poem.
The poem honoured the World War I British war dead of that time, and in particular the British Expeditionary Force, which had by then already had high casualty rates on the developing Western Front. The poem was published when the Battle of the Marne was foremost in people's minds.
War memorial in ChristChurch Cathedral, Christchurch, NZ
Over time, the third and fourth stanzas of the poem (although often just the fourth) were claimed as a tribute to all casualties of war, regardless of state.
The phrase Lest we forget is often added as a final line at the end of the ode and repeated in response by those listening, especially in Australia. In the United Kingdom and New Zealand, the final line of the ode, "We will remember them", is repeated in response. In Canada, the last stanza of the above extract has become known as the Act of Remembrance, and the final line is also repeated.
The second line of the fourth stanza, 'Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn', draws upon Enobarbus' description of Cleopatra in Antony and Cleopatra: 'Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale'.
The "Ode of Remembrance" is regularly recited at memorial services held on days commemorating World War I, such as ANZAC Day, Remembrance Day, and Remembrance Sunday. In Australia's Returned and Services Leagues, it is read out nightly at 6 p.m., followed by a minute's silence. In New Zealand it is part of the Dawn service at 6 a.m. Recitations of the "Ode of Remembrance" are often followed by a playing of the Last Post. In Canadian remembrance services, a French translation is often used along with or instead of the English ode.
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