Laurence Binyon composed his poem ‘For The Fallen’ just a few weeks after the outbreak of WWI. It is the fourth stanza, sometimes referred to as The Ode, which is most widely known, being recited at remembrance services in a number of Commonwealth nations, including the annual ANZAC Day dawn services here in New Zealand.
The Dawn Service is a tradition which was established here in the 1920s and has grown in popularity over the last decade or so. This may be due to an awareness that the veterans of WWI have now all passed away, and a sense among my own generation that their sacrifice, and the sacrifices of our armed services in general, are an important part of our culture and heritage which deserve acknowledgement by those of us fortunate enough to live in peace. At least, that is why I personally attend my local Dawn Service.
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 towards 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 not 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 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.