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        'Death august and royal'

NEED TO KNOW:
flesh of her flesh’: family – the people of England
the fallen’: men brutally killed in war – the British and their allies, but not Germans and theirs
august’: (rhyming with 'for dust') 'majestic', 'inspiring respect'
the immortal spheres’: the orbits of the planets, therefore 'the sky', the traditional location of ‘heaven’
staunch’: firm, loyal
with their faces to the foe’: advancing to kill, not turning to retreat
at the going down of the sun’: evening and sunrise – military tradition starts the day with the bugle call ‘Reveille’ at dawn and ends at sunset with the ‘Last Post’, a bugle call often played at military funerals and Remembrance ceremonies
no lot’: no part in ordinary everyday working life
foam’: the sea, here the English Channel and the North Sea
well-spring’: a deep source of water (essential to life) which feeds a water well

 

MORE POETRY

TWO FAMOUS POEMS FROM THE FIRST WORLD WAR
|FOR THE FALLEN | ANTHEM FOR A DOOMED YOUTH|


  for the fallen
| the story of the poem | what does the poem say? |

THE STORY OF THE POEM
Laurence Binyon, who was 45 in 1914, was a British academic and poet. He worked for the Red Cross during the First World War, and did not visit the front line until 1916. He wrote this poem, which became more famous than its writer, soon after the war began in August 1914. At that time men were volunteering to fight. It was easy then to encourage people to feel a kind of romantic idealism about fighting for one’s country, and to support ‘the cause of the free’ – especially as Britain entered the war to ‘rescue’ Belgium, which the German army had just invaded.

Not many people in Britain in 1914 knew what war was really like. Their ideas of it were associated with fine uniforms, heroic and selfless behaviour, skill in using weapons, and reports of military success. At this time many British men were unemployed and living in poverty, and they saw joining up as a way of earning a wage – and doing something important for their country at the same time. They knew it would be dangerous, but believed it would be a noble and heroic way to die. And many of them would die, as Laurence Binyon realised. So he wrote his poem to express a romantic view of war. He had no difficulty getting it published in a national paper: ideas like these were easier to live with than the harsh truth, and readers bereaved by war might find their sadness a little less hard to bear.

As it turned out, this war was the most horrific there had yet been. People did turn for comfort to Laurence Binyon’s poem. After the war, when Remembrance Day ceremonies began to take place every November, lines from the poem (especially the fourth verse) became familiar to many, whether recited at Remembrance Day ceremonies or as words engraved on headstones in war cemeteries round the world.

In a way, the poem took a significant part in creating the manner and tone of Remembrance, inventing for soldiers’ deaths an almost spiritual grandeur that had little or no basis in the real events of the war.

what does the poem say?




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