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Graves of the British army casualties of the Second World War buried in Trincomalee.
'The "Ode of Remembrance" is an ode taken from Laurence Binyon's poem, "For the Fallen", which was first published in The Times in September 1914.
The poet wrote For the Fallen, which has seven stanzas, while sitting on the cliffs between Pentire Point and The Rumps in north Cornwall, UK. A stone plaque was erected at the spot in 2001 to commemorate the fact. The plaque bears the inscription:
- For the Fallen
- Composed on these cliffs 1914
There is also a plaque on the beehive monument on the East Cliff above Portreath in central North Cornwall which cites that as the place where Binyon composed the poem. A plaque on a statue dedicated to the fallen in Valleta, Malta is also inscribed with these words.
The poem honoured the World War I British war dead of that time, and in particular the British Expeditionary Force, which by then already had high casualty rates on the developing Western Front. The poem was published when the Battle of the Marne was foremost in people's minds.
Over time, the third and fourth stanzas of the poem (although often just the fourth) were claimed as a tribute to all casualties of war, regardless of state.
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
The phrase Lest we forget is often added as a final line at the end of the ode and repeated in response by those listening, especially in Australia. In the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and Singapore, the final line of the ode, "We will remember them", is repeated in response. In Canada, the second stanza of the above extract has become known as the Act of Remembrance, and the final line is also repeated.
The second line of the fourth stanza, 'Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn', draws upon Enobarbus' description of Cleopatra in Antony and Cleopatra: 'Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale'.
The "Ode of Remembrance" is regularly recited at memorial services held on days commemorating World War I, such as ANZAC Day, Remembrance Day, and Remembrance Sunday. In Australia's Returned and Services Leagues, and in New Zealand's numerous RSA's, it is read out nightly at 7 p.m., followed by a minute's silence. In Australia and New Zealand it is also part of the Dawn service at 6 a.m. Recitations of the "Ode of Remembrance" are often followed by a playing of the Last Post. In Canadian remembrance services, a French translation is often used along with or instead of the English ode.
The second stanza is also read at the Menin Gate, every evening at 8 p.m., after the first part of the last post. It is mostly read by a British serviceman. The recital is followed by a minute of silence'.(Quote from Wikipaedia)