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For the fallen

With ANZAC Day looming, time to reflect on a key piece of every dawn and ANZAC service with a little history.

Moved by the opening of what was then called the Great War and the already high number of casualties of the British Expeditionary Force, in 1914 Laurence Binyon wrote his poem “For the Fallen”, with its “Ode of Remembrance” (the third and fourth or simply the fourth stanza of the poem).

At the time, the poet Laurence Binyon was visiting the cliffs on the north Cornwall coast (there’s a plaque commemorating the occasion with The Rumps promontory beyond) when he wrote the piece (first published in The Times in September, 1914) when public feeling was affected by the recent Battle of the Marne.

The place is scenic. At Pentire Head (in Cornish: Penn Tir, meaning “headland”) there’s a headland and peninsula on the Atlantic coast in North Cornwall, England, UK.

Pentire Point and Stepper Point stand at either side of the mouth of the River Camel estuary (Pentire to the north-east, Stepper to the south-west). To the south of Pentire Point is the small seaside resort of Polzeath. The coastline around the headland is owned by the National Trust, although the bulk of the headland itself is let to Pentire Farm.

The Rumps promontory is the site of Iron Age clifftop fortifications – the series of mound and ditch earthworks remain clearly visible today.

The entire headland forms the Pentire Peninsula Site of Special Scientific Interest, designated for its geology and flora and fauna including nationally rare plants. Important examples noted include slates from the Upper Devonian period, several invertebrate species, predatory birds and grey seals.

The stone plaque was erected in 2001 to commemorate the fact and bears the inscription;

For The Fallen. Composed on these cliffs 1914.

The plaque also bears the fourth stanza of the poem:

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

The entire poem is here;

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 of 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.

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