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Sunday, 11 November 2012
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.
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
However 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.
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.
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 line Lest we forget is often added to the end of the ode, which is 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'.
Today is a day for remembering those who put their lives on the line and those who are currently putting their lives on the line. It is a day for honouring those who have fallen, those who have served and those who are currently serving. It is a day for putting yourself in someone else’s shoes – the wife, the mother, the daughter – and only being able to imagine what they were going through, never fully understanding how it must have felt when their husbands, sons, fathers went away and many did not come back, and for those serving now always hoping nothing bad will happen to those they love most.
It is a very emotional day for me, I cannot describe it. I always have a few tears. How does one even begin to understand …….