We have posted these two pieces before but they are timely just now, the first was written by Val Fish and is about the poem For the Fallen by Laurence Binyon. The second piece is a poem written by another of our brilliant Whittlesey Wordsmiths TessaThomson.
For the Fallen by Laurence Binyon
Inspiration for ‘For The Fallen’
Laurence Binyon composed his best known poem while sitting on the cliff-top looking out to sea from the dramatic scenery of the north Cornish coastline. A plaque marks the location at Pentire Point, north of Polzeath. However, there is also a small plaque on the East Cliff north of Portreath, further south on the same north Cornwall coast, which also claims to be the place where the poem was written.
The poem was written in mid September 1914, a few weeks after the outbreak of the First World War. During these weeks the British Expeditionary Force had suffered casualties following its first encounter with the Imperial German Army at the Battle of Mons on 23 August, its rearguard action during the retreat from Mons in late August and the Battle of Le Cateau on 26 August, and its participation with the French Army in holding up the Imperial German Army at the First Battle of the Marne between 5 and 9 September 1914.
Laurence said in 1939 that the four lines of the fourth stanza came to him first. These words of the fourth stanza have become especially familiar and famous, having been adopted by the Royal British Legion as an Exhortation for ceremonies of Remembrance to commemorate fallen Servicemen and women.
Laurence Binyon was too old to enlist in the military forces, but he went to work for the Red Cross as a medical orderly in 1916. He lost several close friends and his brother-in-law in the war.
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 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.
Laurence Binyon 1869 – 1943
I was privileged to perform on the stage at The Broadway Peterborough in 2014, in the ‘Sing for Life’ ladies’ choir, to raise funds for a new wing at Sue Ryder’s Thorpe Hall Hospice.
On the 100th Anniversary of the beginning of the First World War, we sang an adaptation of ‘For The Fallen’ by Rowland Lee.
In the final few bars, we were as stunned as the audience as poppies came falling from above onto the stage. It was a moment I’ll always treasure.
Lest we Forget
Written by Tessa Thomson
With the annual remembrance commemorations drawing near, Tessa has marked this time of reflection with a poem expressing not only her thoughts but those of most of us.
LEST WE FORGET – NOVEMBER 11TH
We travel in our hordes to see that place
Wherein our loved ones fell without a trace.
Marked and blanketed by stones in white
Covering that great plain, that great site.
Farm hand boys and factory workers
Friends from villages, schools or clubs.
Joined together, left their homeland
To lie in fields, decayed amongst the scrub.
Their voices call out still across that plain
Feet are still heard thundering, inches gained.
Hearts were in their mouths, panting fast
As struggling, reached their enemies at last.
The bodies lay before them in the mud
Mingled with the dirt, the crimson blood.
No time to mourn a brother or a friend
Just pass them by, praying for the end.
Guns that deafened now are stilled
Armies of boys and men were killed.
Some now just memories to their kin
Some carried pain through life like sin
They gave us freedom, free to speak
They made us strong not kept us weak
We live in peace and fear no man
They gave their lives so we just can
We can only have spring after winter the sun can only rise after it has gone down.
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