The Ode

 

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 a 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 uncountered:
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 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 are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end they remain.

Background
The poem "For the Fallen", written by English poet Laurence Binyon (1869-1943), was first published in the Times of London on 21 September 1914, the second month of the First World War.

Binyon served as a Red Cross orderly during World War I and for his work was made a Chevalier of the Legion of Honor by the French Government. His poem gained further recognition when it featured at the unveiling of the London Cenotaph in 1919. In 1929 it was recited at the laying of the Inauguration Stone for the Australian War Memorial.

The fourth stanza of the poem is known as The Ode, and is recited at nearly all major services of remembrance; on ANZAC Day, Remembrance Day, and on occasions of remembrance within RSL (Returned and Services League of Australia) clubs.

The preceding stanza, though not accorded the same prominence as the Ode, is often recited to acknowledge the bravery of those who fought and fell so that others might enjoy peace and freedom.

At the end of the war Binyon returned to the British Museum printed books department where he was in charge of Oriental prints and paintings. In 1933 he was appointed Norton professor of poetry at Harvard University. Binyon wrote several books on art, including a translation of Dante's Divine Comedy. Laurence Binyon died in 1943.

Additional Research (material available from the State Library of New South Wales):

Biography: Hatcher, John. Laurence Binyon. Poet, Scholar of East and West. Oxford, Clarenden Press. 1995. State Library of New South Wales Call No. N821/B614/1

First publication of "For the Fallen" in The Times 21st September 1914, page 9 Col. C

Obituaries:
The Times March 1943
death; photo., March 11
7d; 13,7e; 16, 6f; 18, 7e; funeral service, 15,66

New York Times March 11 Page 21.