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For the Fallen

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For the Fallen
by Laurence Binyon
"For the Fallen" inscription on the Stirling War Memorial in Scotland
First published inThe Times
CountryUnited Kingdom and the commonwealth
Subject(s)Remembrance Day, war
Publication date21 September 1914
Full text
The Times/1914/Arts/For the Fallen at Wikisource

"For the Fallen" is a poem written by Laurence Binyon. It was first published in The Times in September 1914. It was also published in Binyon's book "The Winnowing Fan : Poems On The Great War" by Elkin Mathews, London, 1914.

Over time, the third and fourth stanzas of the poem (usually now just the fourth) have been claimed as a tribute to all casualties of war, regardless of state.[1] This selection of the poem is often taken as an ode that is often recited at Remembrance Day and ANZAC Day services, and is what the term "Ode of Remembrance" usually refers to.[2]


War memorial in ChristChurch Cathedral, Christchurch, New Zealand
CWGC headstone with excerpt from "For The Fallen"

Laurence Binyon (10 August 1869 – 10 March 1943),[3] a British poet, was described as having a "sober" response to the outbreak of World War I, in contrast to the euphoria many others felt (although he signed the "Author's Declaration" that defended British involvement in the war, appearing in The New York Times on 18 September with 54 other British authors—including Thomas Hardy, Arthur Conan Doyle, and H.G. Wells). A week after the war began in 1914, Binyon published his first war poem, "The Fourth of August" in The Times.[4][5][6]

"For The Fallen" plaque with The Rumps promontory beyond


On 23 August, in Britain's opening action of World War I on the Western Front, the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) suffered a loss at the Battle of Mons and the subsequent lengthy retreat. The extent of fighting to follow was not revealed as casualties were comparable to past European wars.[7][8] "For the Fallen" was specifically composed in honour of the casualties of the BEF, written immediately following the retreat from the Battle of Mons.[9][8]

Binyon composed the original poem 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:[9]

For the Fallen
Composed on these cliffs 1914

There is also a plaque on the East Cliff above Portreath in central North Cornwall which cites that as the place where Binyon composed the poem.[9] It was published in The Times on 21 September 1914, just seven weeks after the beginning of the war.[8]


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. (1–4)

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. (5–8)

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. (9–12)

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. (13–16)

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. (17–20)

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; (21–24)

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. (25–28)


The first stanza establishes a patriotic element. Binyon personifies the United Kingdom as a "mother," and British soldiers as its "children." The poem remembers the deaths of soldiers while justifying the cause of their deaths as "the cause of the free": a theme carried throughout the rest of the poem.[10]

The monosyllabic words of the second stanza echo "solemn, funereal drums."[11] The stanza, like the first, espouses themes of "martial glorification." It describes war as "solemn," with a "music" and "glory" and compares death to "celestial music."[10]

The third stanza refers to soldiers marching to fight in the Battle of the Marne. It is less known than the fourth,[12] despite occasionally being recited on Remembrance Day.[1] The soldiers are "straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow," and though facing "odds uncounted" are "staunch to the end."[10]

The fourth stanza of the poem was written first,[11] and includes the best known lines in the poem.[13] The original words "grow not old" are sometimes quoted as "not grow old." It has also been suggested that the word "condemn" should be "contemn," however "condemn" was used when the poem was first printed in The Times on 21 September 1914, and later in the anthology The Winnowing Fan: Poems of the Great War in 1914. If either publication had contained a misprint, Binyon had the chance to make an amendment. The issue has arisen in Australia, with little or no debate in other Commonwealth countries that mark Remembrance Day.[14][15][16] The line commencing "Age shall not weary them" echoes (probably unconsciously) Enobarbus' description of Cleopatra in Antony and Cleopatra: "Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale".[17]

In the fifth stanza, Binyon speaks of loss and mourns the deaths of soldiers who left behind "familiar tables" and "laughing comrades."[18] In the sixth stanza, the soldiers are described as achieving a sort of "bodily transcendence" in their death.[19] Finally, the seventh stanza compares dead soldiers to stars and constellations, that remain traces of being soldiers, moving in "marches". This memorializes the dead while keeping their role as soldiers for the British Empire present; "an empire that, by association with these eternal soldiers, makes its own claims on a sort of immortality. "[19]

Critical response[edit]

In his biography on Laurence Binyon, John Hatcher noted:[8]

In its gravitas, its tenderness, and depth of grief, "For the Fallen" looks as if it should have appeared in The Times of 21 September 1918 not 1914. It harmonizes with the tone neither of The Times war reports nor of other poems appearing at the time... While other early Great War poems sounded hollow when the true scale and nature of the war slowly permeated the national consciousness, this poem grew in stature with each defeat, each abortive push, and pyrrhic victory.

Hatcher concludes that "by 1918 it was an infinitely better poem than it had been in 1914." [8] The British Library said the poem "remains one of the most affecting and well-known elegies from the period."[20]


Memorial services and monuments[edit]

The "Ode of Remembrance" is regularly recited at memorial services held on days commemorating the First World War, such as ANZAC Day, Remembrance Day, and Remembrance Sunday. Recitations of the "Ode of Remembrance" are often followed by a playing of the "Last Post".


The ode 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. The Ode is also read by the members of the HMS Hood Association at the end of every annual commemorative service held on 24 May each year, the anniversary of the sinking of HMS Hood.

In 2018, at the centennial of the signing of the Armistice, plans were made to ring carillons and church bells across the Commonwealth at local sundown, in reference to the line, "at the going down of the sun... we will remember them." The bells were to be rung 100 times in recognition of the 100 years having passed.[21][22]

A plaque on a statue dedicated to the fallen in La Valletta, Malta, is also inscribed with these words.


In Australia's Returned and Services Leagues, and in New Zealand's Returned Services Associations, it is read out nightly at 6 p.m., followed by a minute's silence. It is also part of the Dawn Service in Australia and New Zealand. Like the Menin Gate, the Australian War Memorial incorporates the ode into its Last Post Ceremony, where it is read by a member of the Australian Defence Force (ADF) and is followed by a minute of silence and a bugler playing the "Last Post".[citation needed]

Ode of Remembrance[edit]

Typically, the "Ode of Remembrance" is recited in Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands as follows:

English original Māori translation[23]

They shall not grow old,
As we who 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.

E kore rātou e kaumātuatia
Pēnei i a tātou kua mahue nei
E kore hoki rātou e ngoikore
Ahakoa pehea i ngā āhuatanga o te wā
I te hekenga atu o te rā
Tae noa ki te arangamai i te ata
Ka maumahara tonu tātou ki a rātou
Ka maumahara tonu tātou ki a rātou

Australians typically respond with "Lest We Forget" after the recitation whereas New Zealanders echo the last line "We will remember them".


In Canadian remembrance services, a French translation is often used along with or instead of the English ode.[24]

A quotation appears on the Calgary Soldiers' Memorial and on the cenotaph in Grandview Park, Vancouver, British Columbia.


A memorial in Teluk Intan commemorating the fallen of both the First and Second World Wars, which was installed during the colonial period in British-ruled Malaya, includes a few lines from the poem.

"Lest we forget"[edit]

The line "Lest we forget", taken from Rudyard Kipling's poem "Recessional" (which incidentally has nothing to do with remembering the fallen in war), is often added as if were part of the ode and repeated in response by those listening, especially in Australia. Several Boer War memorials are inscribed with the phrase, showing its use pre-World War I. 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.[25]

Musical settings[edit]

Sir Edward Elgar set to music three of Binyon's poems ("The Fourth of August", "To Women", and "For the Fallen", published within the collection The Winnowing Fan) as The Spirit of England, Op. 80, for tenor or soprano solo, chorus, and orchestra (1917). His setting of "For the Fallen" sparked some controversy as it was published after another setting of the same poem by the composer Cyril Rootham in 1915. Neither composer was responsible for this, and Elgar initially offered to withdraw but was persuaded to continue by the literary and art critic Sidney Colvin and by Binyon himself.[26] There is an eighth stanza in the version that was set to music by Elgar.[27] An abridged version of Elgar's setting of "For the Fallen", called "With Proud Thanksgiving", was sung at the unveiling of the new Cenotaph in Whitehall on 11 November 1920.[28]

"They shall grow not old..." was set to music by Douglas Guest in 1971, and has become a well-known feature of choral services on Remembrance Sunday. Nottingham-based composer Alex Patterson also wrote a setting of the text in 2010.[29] The text of "For the Fallen" has also been set by Mark Blatchly for treble voices, organ and trumpet (which plays "The Last Post" in the background).[30] In March 2015, a new musical setting was released by Gil Orms.[31]

Popular culture[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Commemorative Services: Anzac Day" (PDF). Commonwealth of Australia. 2015.
  2. ^ "Ode of Remembrance (For the Fallen)". BBC. 6 June 2014. Archived from the original on 23 April 2019. Retrieved 2 February 2019.
  3. ^ "Laurence Binyon | English scholar and poet". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 2 March 2019.
  4. ^ Hatcher 1995, p. 191.
  5. ^ Maunder, Andrew; Smith, Angela K.; Potter, Jane; Tate, Trudi (2017). British Literature of World War I. Routledge. p. 16. ISBN 978-1-351-22228-0.
  6. ^ Milne, Nick. 2014 October 20. "1914 Authors’ Manifesto Defending Britain’s Involvement in WWI, Signed by H.G. Wells and Arthur Conan Doyle." Slate.
  7. ^ "Battle of Mons". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 2 March 2019.
  8. ^ a b c d e Hatcher 1995, p. 192.
  9. ^ a b c "World War One at Home, North Coast, Cornwall: Inspiration for the 'Ode of Remembrance'". BBC. 3 November 2014. Retrieved 2 February 2019.
  10. ^ a b c Moffett 2007, p. 234.
  11. ^ a b Steel, Nigel (30 July 2014). "They shall not grow old: 'For the fallen', Laurence Binyon". The Telegraph. ISSN 0307-1235. Archived from the original on 30 June 2015. Retrieved 1 February 2019.
  12. ^ Fletcher, Anthony (2013). Life, Death, and Growing Up on the Western Front. Yale University Press. p. 251. ISBN 978-0-300-19856-0.
  13. ^ "The recitation (including the Ode)". The Australian War Memorial. Retrieved 1 February 2019.
  14. ^ Anzac Day - Traditions, Facts and Folklore: Words of Remembrance Archived 3 June 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  15. ^ "The Ode". The Australian Army. 5 October 2016. Retrieved 1 February 2019.
  16. ^ "Poems". The Australian War Memorial. Retrieved 1 February 2019.
  17. ^ "The Ode" (PDF). Retrieved 15 October 2012.
  18. ^ Moffett 2007, p. 235.
  19. ^ a b Moffett 2007, p. 236.
  20. ^ "Manuscript of 'For the Fallen' by Laurence Binyon". The British Library. Archived from the original on 21 July 2018. Retrieved 2 March 2019.
  21. ^ Armistice Centenary bell ringing, Anzac Centenary Coordination Unit, State of Queensland, Australia. Accessed 9 November 2018.
  22. ^ Bells of Peace, Royal Canadian Legion. Accessed 9 November 2018.
  23. ^ "Māori version of the Ode of Remembrance changed". 30 July 2015.
  24. ^ "Guide des cérémonies commémoratives". Anciens Combattants Canada. 11 February 2020.
  25. ^ "A Guide to Commemorative Services". Veterans Affairs Canada. 11 February 2020.
  26. ^ Elgar Studies. J. P. E. Harper-Scott, Julian Rushton, p. 225
  27. ^ "Words of Remembrance - ANZAC Day Commemoration Committee". anzacday.org.au. Retrieved 1 February 2019.
  28. ^ Moore, p.750
  29. ^ "For the fallen - Alex Patterson". YouTube.
  30. ^ "For the Fallen" by Mark Blatchly, recorded by St Paul's Cathedral Choir on Hyperion Records
  31. ^ "Ode of Remembrance" by Gil Orms
  32. ^ "Automatic Redirect".
  33. ^ "Doctor Who Transcript - 03x09 - Family Blood". foreverdreaming.org. Retrieved 16 November 2019.
  34. ^ Archived at Ghostarchive and the Wayback Machine: "Family of Blood Epilogue". YouTube.

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