With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,
England mourns 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 all 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 our heavenly plain,
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end, they remain.
Robert Laurence Binyon was 45 years of age when the Great War began in 1914; therefore, he was too old to enlist in the military forces. At the time, he worked for the British Museum and in mid September 1914, he wrote his most famous poem whilst sitting on a cliff top looking out to sea on the North Cornwall coastline.
In early September 1914, Binyon was inspired to write the poem after hearing of the horrendous casualties to the British Expeditionary Force. The casualties were sustained during the Battle of Mons, the retreat from Mons, the Battle of Le Cateau together with the joint Anglo/French stand against the Germans at the Battle of the Marne.
Binyon went to the Western Front in 1916 as a Red Cross medical orderly.
The forth verse of the poem has been adopted by the Royal British Legion as an Exhortation for the ceremony of Remembrance to commemorate fallen Servicemen and Women. Whenever the “Last Post” is played the “Exhortation” forms part of the proceedings.
It is rather ironic that the poem was written at the beginning of the war rather than the end of the war considering the casualties suffered by all combatant nations.