Laurence Binyon’s “For The Fallen” is one of the most quoted poems in relation to WW1. It was written back home, reflecting on the sacrifices of thousands of men on the Western Front.
Laurence Binyon was born in Lancaster in 1869. He was a keeper of oriental prints and drawings at a British museum when WW1 began on August 1914. He was a well-known poet, scholar and author.One of the most overlooked facts about this poem is how early into the war that it was written. “For The Fallen” was written in northern Cornwall on September 1914. Few remember who wrote these words that contain profound emotions of respect, grief and admiration for the men who had collectively laid down their lives on the Western Front for the greater good.
What was remarkable about Binyon’s poem is that it had predicted much higher, later losses of life after his poem was written.The poem’s main message is made very clear, by calling attention to the sacrifice for greater good given by men who laid their lives down for England. ‘Flesh of her flesh’, in the third line of the first stanza, mimics Adam’s words in the Book of Genesis: ‘And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.’ This allusion lends England’s maternal relationship with her children – the English soldiers fighting overseas – a resounding religious connotation.Stanza 1 represents that when we lose a soldier, we mourn as a whole because we are one entity, part of one nation. When a soldier is lost on the front line, whether or not they are related to us, we can feel it. The soldiers are ours and we are theirs.
Stanza 2 represent us commemorating the dead with mournful music. We immortalise our dead soldiers the same way several aspects of music become timeless.Stanza 3 describes the soldiers chanting war songs to keep the morale up. The men were brave, young and part of a single entity. They stared death in the face and had a courage not to retreat.
They came for the glory of death, not for the shame of life.Stanza 4 vividly describes that the dead soldiers will forever be young in our minds and hearts. They will never be touched by age, and will live an eternal life within our memories.Stanza 5 represents the feeling of loss. When they are gone, taken from our grasp, taken from the everyday life they once found familiar. But also, they do not have to dirty their calloused hands at work.
The idea of dead soldiers merely “sleeping” means that it gives the feeling that they are just temporarily out of reach and can return when they wake. Stanza 6 showcases that our desires and wants are infinite, a constant stream from somewhere within our body that we can’t see. The dead from the war remain in our hearts and our desire to have them back with us. When we look up at the skies, we will remember them.
Night and the eternal sleep cannot take the memory away from us.Stanza 7 quotes a well-known saying, “Ashes to ashes. Dust to dust.” In the end, we will all return to dust, Life lives on. Stars shine, fizzle out, then die in a magnificent explosion of light.
But the fallen soldiers will remain eternal because they will always be remembered and we immortalise them through showing our gratitude on remembrance days, reading their diary entries.