3 Squadron POEMS

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"THE ODE"

Its Origins...

AUTHOR ... Laurence BINYON (1869-1943)

Laurence Binyon was an art expert, playwright and widely-published poet, the son of the Vicar of Burton, Lonsdale, LancasterHe was educated at St. Paulís school, London, and Trinity College, Oxford, and entered the service of the British Museum in 1893 where he was later Assistant Keeper of Prints and Drawings.  His classical poems won him prizes and recognition in literary circles.  Moved by the opening of the Great War and the huge number of casualties of the retreating British Expeditionary Force, in 1914 Binyon wrote For the Fallen, with its Ode of Remembrance, during a visit to the cliffs of northern Cornwall.  (Where a plaque commemorates it today.) 

File:ForTheFallenPlaqueCornwall.jpg

The poem was published in "The Times" of 21 September 1914, when public feeling was affected by the recent Battle of Marne.  It gained almost immediate universal acclaim for perfect simplicity, dignity and euphony.  The best known quatrain is said to be used (wholly or in part) for more memorials and commemorative services than any other in the English language.  Its aptness has been recognised by ex-service bodies in Britain, Australia and elsewhere.  It came to be widely used in Australia after WWI.

In 1915, despite being too old to enlist in the First World War, Laurence Binyon volunteered during his vacation from the Museum to work in a British hospital for French soldiers, Hopital Temporaire d'Arc-en-Barrois, Haute-Marne, France, as an orderly.  He returned in the summer of 1916 and took care of soldiers wounded at the Verdun battlefield.  He wrote about his experiences in For Dauntless France (1918).  His poems, "Fetching the Wounded" and "The Distant Guns", were inspired by his hospital service.

Honoured

During September-October 1939, in ten Allied countries, the 25th Anniversary of Laurence Binyon's "For the Fallen" was observed (upon the suggestion of F.I.D.A.C., the Inter-Allied Federation of Ex-Servicemen).  Commenting on how it came to be written, Laurence Binyon, who had celebrated his 70th birthday on 10 August 1939, said:

"I can't recall the exact date, beyond that it was shortly after the retreat.  [Mons, August 23, 1914.]  It was set down, out of doors, on a cliff in Polzeath, Cornwall.  The stanza 'They Shall Grow Not Old' was written first and dictated the rhythmical movement of the whole poem."

 

FOR THE FALLEN
- by
LAURENCE BINYON

With proud thanksgiving; a mother for her children,

England mourns 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 the 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 at home.

They have no lot in our labour of the daytime,

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.

 


Sculpture in the Sydney Anzac Memorial, dedicated to the dead aircrew and groundcrew of the Australian Flying Corps in WW1.
Each of the "stars of memory" in the dome above represents an individual casualty.

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