At the going down of the sun

Quick! Name a heroic action in World War I. I bet you can’t.

Modern European attitudes to war and nationalism were largely shaped by that most patriotic of wars.

Passchendaele, The Somme, Verdun, Galipolli. The names of the battles are associated in our minds with tragedy and disaster. The names of the generals will forever conjure up images of incompetence. Even the names of the poets – Sassoon, Wilfred Owen, Robert Graves – cry out to us with sadness and pain.

Poppies

Hostilities in that terrible war ended at 11 minutes past 11 o’clock on the 11th of November, 1918. On Sunday, at that same time, there will be a parade followed by a remembrance service at the granite war memorial that stands in the corner of every common, in every village in Britain.

My grandfather, who fought in World War II, took me to the service every year when I was very young. When I was older, I led the parade as the senior cadet in the Senior Service and, later still, I marched with real soldiers and sailors in the huge parades in the Navy towns of Plymouth and Portsmouth.

The sound of a bugle playing The Last Post still tugs at my tear ducts and I still can’t say the prayer that follows the two minute silence without my voice breaking.

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.
Amen.

Published by

Ragged Clown

Based in San Jose, California

4 thoughts on “At the going down of the sun”

  1. I hadn’t realized that it was from a poem:

    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 a 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 uncountered:
    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 contemn.
    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 at 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 are starry in the time of our darkness,
    To the end, to the end they remain.

    They shall grow not old….as we that are left grow old
    Age shall not weary them, nor the years contemn
    At the going down of the sun, and in the morning, we will remember them

    by Laurence Binyon

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