Lest We Forget

Today, the 25th of April in Australia we observe Anzac Day.

The recording above is of the Last Post, which is traditionally played at ANZAC day services.  I took this recording from the Australian War Memorial page on The Last Post, where they explain its history and its role in funerals and other services marking the passing of service men and women.

ANZAC stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps and is an acronym that has its origins in WWI.  It is particularly associated, in our national memory, with the terrible loss of life at Gallipoli in 1915.  (If you would like to read more of the history and the modern-day memorials beautifully maintained by the locals on the Gallipoli Peninsula, see this site.)

But Anzac day is an opportunity to remember and honour all the men and women who died in the service of their country.  Those who will not learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them.  We honour their memories, not to glorify war, but lest we forget.

The verse above, familiar to anyone who has ever been to an Anzac Day service, is taken from a poem called ‘For the Fallen’, which was written by an English poet, Laurence Binyon, in 1914.  It was written for England’s lost soldiers, but I reproduce it after the cut in full, as some of the imagery is beautiful and the terrible loss of war is something all countries share.

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 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.

***********

Regular readers of the blog will notice that this is almost the same post as last year on this day.  This is because when I went to post today, I found that I had said all the things I wanted to last year.  I hope you will forgive the repetition.  It is, after all, a day we commemorate each year in order to remember.

7 thoughts on “Lest We Forget

  1. It is such an important day, on both sides of the Tasman – poignant, solemn and historic.

    Here in NZ, it also hasn’t been politicised, which is more than I can say for our other national day, ‘Waitangi Day’.

    • Thank you Matthew. I should have mentioned that it is, of course, observed in NZ as well. And Turkey, in Gallipoli, which always touches me. It is good to have some things that the in-fighting has yet to touch, isn’t it. Would that there were more of them!

    • It is moving, isn’t it, Casey? The stanza

      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.

      is familiar to most Australians, but I suspect most of them don’t know the whole poem, so I thought it was worth sharing. It makes me cry, every time. Sadly, I don’t think there has ever been a time in human history when the sentiments haven’t applied. Let’s hope a time comes when the need for it to remember fallen soldiers is just history, rather than living memory.

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