World War I ended 100 years ago today —at the eleventh hour, on the eleventh day, of the eleventh month 1918.
Below, you will find two poems that define the war’s impact upon those who served then. None of us should ever forget their sacrifices, and if there were to be a fitting memorial to those sacrifices, it would be that there would never again be a war of any kind. Sadly, none of our politicians are very bright, so we must gird ourselves for more of the same.
For the Fallen
Robert Laurence Binyon (1869-1943) was moved by the opening of the Great War and the already high number of casualties of the British Expeditionary Force in 1914. In 1915, despite being too old to serve in the military, Binyon volunteered at a British hospital for French soldiers. He returned in 1916 to help care for soldiers wounded during the Battle for Verdun.
Within this poem is the Ode of Remembrance (the third and fourth stanzas). This poem is recited during the United Kingdom’s annual observance, on Remembrance Day. Note: If you have never seen the annual Remembrance Day observance in the United Kingdom, you owe it to yourself to view it. You can find it at You Tube.
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 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 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.
In Flanders Field
LtCol John McCrae (1872-1918) was a Canadian Army medical doctor. Colonel McCrae died of pneumonia near the end of the war.
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
Let us never forget.