Lest we Forget

This blog post isn’t about writing, it’s about remembering the past and learning from it. Today is Anzac Day, a day where all Australians are asked to remember our fallen soldiers. For those who don’t know what ANZAC stands for, it’s the term for used for the Australian and New Zealand Army Corp from the first world war. In particular those soldiers grouped together for their deployment to Gallipoli.

In my younger years I viewed war merely as an example of the depravity to which the human race could sink. The need to kill and destroy for the weakest of reasons – greed, megalomania, superiority, subjugation, power, and at it’s base the dislike and distrust of one race over another. This notion was the simplistic view of youth and, with age, my views on war have changed.

Yes, wars are still fought over the weakest of reasons, but they are defended against by the strongest of ideals – respect, love, selflessness, equality, freedom. the need to defend the right of others despite our differences. History has given us some fine examples of both human depravity, and altruism.

The dictionary describes altruism as a willingness to do things that bring advantages to others, even if it results in disadvantage for yourself. I can’t think of a better description for the Anzac’s (and countless soldiers since) who stood in the line of fire to fight for the freedom of others.

I don’t need to name the countless wars the world has experienced or viewed from a safe distance on our TV screens. Most of us have been subjected to lessons in history, seen movies and read books about the heroic actions of men and women standing against hate and delivering freedom to those in need.  The problem is, as time drifts past, and first-world problems overshadow history, we fail to remember the lessons learned and are therefore destined to repeat them.

In Australia, on the 25th of April each year three words splash around the country on media outlets, signage at remembrance events, and on our social media pages- Lest We Forget. I’ve hear those words on this day for just over 50 years, they’re part of my Australian psyche, drummed into my soul, mind and spirit since the day I was born. They accompany one other set of words, spoken the country over on this day.

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. 

It’s only this year that I’ve discovered where this quote comes from and I’m sharing it with you. It’s from a poem by British poet and scholar, Laurence Robert Binyon. I’d like to share the poem with you here along with a wish that, no matter what country we live in, we never forget our fallen or the devastation that war brings.

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 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 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 Robert Binyon, 1869-1943

 

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