Armistice Day, 2018

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.

 

12 thoughts on “Armistice Day, 2018”

  1. And through the mixing of grief and glory the generations that follow learn naught how to still the beast of human violence. They don’t know the irony in today’s world to stop evil you must be stronger. And now with weapons of mass destruction, smite the enemies before they smite you…as they surely will.

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    1. We imagined that The Great War would be the war to end all others, but whoever envisioned that, as history reveals, were horribly mistaken. There were no lessons learned in its aftermath, beginning with the gathering of victors to feast at the corpse of the defeated foe.

      Industrialists, and those who would ride their coattails, became greedy, some even to the extent of borrowing money to ride the wave of economic opportunity —and this led us to an economic collapse that soon made its way around the world. No country escaped save those that had no economy to begin with.

      Then came the rise of the dictators; first, in Russia, then in Italy, and finally in Germany. Today we can denounce these madmen, but if we think that they were a manifestation too far away from American shores for anyone to care about—we should think harder.

      Franklin D. Roosevelt was enamored by what Mussolini was doing in Italy —and he wasn’t alone. America’s greatest industrialists thought that fascism would work well in America, and they even hatched a plot to seize the government with Smedley D. Butler as its military head. The plot failed, because of Butler, but the event serves as an example to us now that (1) the people who assume the trappings of power are an untrustworthy lot, (2) the loss of freedom in America is only one election away (governed in a significant way by thoroughly under-educated citizens), and (3) Americans must never take their eyes away from our foremost prized possession: Our Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

      I am an oath keeper. I will always do my duty. Still, our government has mired us into a senseless and wasteful series of foreign policies and commitments that, rather than making us more patriotic and prouder of our country, forces us to question the intelligence and wisdom of our leaders and the patriotism of our citizens. I am still waiting for someone —anyone— to explain to me how either Iraq or Afghanistan serves our “national interests.” To my mind, defining this ought to be the first step before ever committing our nation’s most precious resources to armed conflict.

      On Armistice Day, I think about those brave young lads who distinguished themselves on the field of battle. World War I was a sad chapter in World History. We ought to have learned important, sustaining lessons from it, but I fear we have not —even today.

      Thank you for your thoughtful comment. Semper Fi!

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    1. I watched President Trump this morning as he delivered his remarks at a cemetery in France. He read a letter that was sent by a soldier to his mother. He hoped that he might survive the war to return home to her once more. He was killed four days before the end of the war. It brought tears to these tired old eyes. What a marvelous generation those men were … which is why I have questioned the placement of the term “greatest generation” to any one group of patriots. One doesn’t get more patriotic than laying down his life for his country.

      Thank you for stopping by …

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  2. I recall studying these two poems back when I was in middle school, and my own literature classes read and meditate upon these poems every few years. I wonder if any other education venue does the same.

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    1. I taught social studies. I always incorporated In Flanders Field into my lessons. To be honest, I have never been able to read this poem without some tearing up. When I recently visited Arlington National Cemetery and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, I thought of the poem … and its impact was emotional for me.

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  3. What a marvelous generation those men were…

    My Uncle Bill, my great uncle, was one of those men. He volunteered — and to be on the front lines so as “to save one family man.”

    Uncle Bill did not come back whole from the front in Belgium. He was forever disabled (gassed, shrapnel wounds) and therefore could never work a job again. Still, he made no secret of how much he loved America.

    Uncle Bill eventually died of complications from the wounds he suffered on the front lines of World War I.

    His photo is the only picture of any person on the wall in our living room.

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