…….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……
Those words are part of poem titled The Fallen, written by the Lancaster born poet, Laurence Binyon (1869 – 1943). The poem was first published in the British newspaper, The Times on 21st September 1914. Binyon donated his handwritten copy of the poem to Lancaster Library.
I remember being at senior school here in England over 30 years ago and having to learn the poem. The poem comprises of 7 verses and we worked in small teams to each remember and explore the thought and emotion in the poem.
At that point, I had no idea that my Grandfather and his siblings had lost a first Cousin in the latter months of the Great War.
It is only as I became enthralled in researching and writing this article that I close my eyes as I suddenly realise that my Great Aunts, who I knew, in fact knew their Cousin who was brave, young and paid the ultimate sacrifice.
I feel a deep sense of sadness, not only at that physical loss, but also of an opportunity to have asked the right question of my elderly relatives; and whilst over the years I did ask questions I did not ask this question and I so wish I had done.
As recently as my last post, Getting Ready for Another Centenary, written in early October I specifically state that I have no living family who remember William James West. How foolish do I feel as I realise just how close I came to knowing a little about William? An opportunity well and truly lost, and only by a few years. The expression “I could kick myself” does not even cut it. I so wish I could pick up the phone and ask the question, but I cannot.
What I can do is remember the sacrifice William made, along with many, many young men across the globe. A true lost generation.
So I shall leave you with the complete poem, and hope that as you read the poem, you take a moment in contemplation.
Until next time,
For The Fallen by Laurence Binyon
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 contemn.
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.