Sunday, November 11, 2007

Lest We Forget

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 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 that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end, they remain.

Laurence Binyon (1869-1943)

I've been thinking, this year, that Remembrance Day seems to be observed by fewer and fewer people each year. There were hardly any people wandering about in poppies this last week. It was difficult to even find poppies to purchase and wear. Stores, libraries, everything is open for regular business today. And this is a problem. Because the world is spiraling out of control with violence and chaos growing across the globe, and Empire-like Megapowers wielding their influence to subjugate and destroy other peoples in a way that I think shows a growth toward the dangers faced before the two world wars of the last century. And people are not remembering when this happened before. Are not standing up and saying no. Are not recalling that our grandparents and great-grandparents laid down their lives so that we could live in a world of freedom.

Perhaps this has something to do with the fact that each year there are fewer and fewer left who lived through a world war. With almost a century having passed since the Great War, and more than 60 years since the second World War, there are few who remain to testify to the horror, and to the sacrifice. But now that they are going, it is becoming even more important to remember.

But what do we need to remember? For those who did not lose a brother, a son, a loved one in the wars, the remembrance is different. We remember the sacrifice. The courage of conviction. The terrible losses. The inhumanity. The great humanity. The situations that brought about the wars. The great hatreds. The great loves. The great deeds. The wretched actions. The state of the world. The hope for better. The belief in something purer. The understanding of evil. The conviction. The belief. The faith. The call to act because inaction is, if not acquiescence, then sufferance. The utter atrociousness of war and violence and hate. The need to stand up and act. And we think about Afghanistan, Iraq, Sudan, Rwanda, and all the many other places where men and women are giving their lives today. And we maintain the faith.

In Flanders’ Fields

In Flanders’ Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders’ Fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders’ Fields.

Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1918)

Lest We Forget Project - Library and Archives Canada

CBC Remembrance Day in-depth Backgrounder

War Museum of Canada's Remembrance Day Page

Letters from the War

1 comment:

Canadian Economist said...

This is a truly wonderful post - thank you. My grandmother, near the end of her life, told me about life in Holland during WWII. Canadian soldiers saved her and my grandfather's family. I think this was the reason they came in Canada in the 1950s, like so many other Dutch families. A very common Canadian experience. For me, as I think about having a family of my own, I am more than ever truly thankful.