A month after the outbreak of World War I, English poet Laurence Binyon sat on a clifftop in Cornwall to compose For the Fallen.
Already there had been many casualties and the first lines he set to paper gave birth to the most recited verse to emerge during the conflict.
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.
All seven stanzas of the finished poem were published by The Times on 21 September 1914 in the aftermath of the Battle of the Marne, where the number killed or wounded on both sides was estimated at up to 500,000. The horrific battle ushered in four years of stalemate with carnage on an unprecedented scale.
In his mid-40s, Binyon was too old to enlist. Later in the war he volunteered as an orderly with the Red Cross, experiencing the field hospitals established behind the British front on the Western Front. Personal tragedy affected him with the loss of his brother-in-law, as well as several close friends.
Today, Binyon may not be as well remembered as fellow war poets Wilfred Owen, Rupert Brooke or Siegfried Sassoon, but his most famous lines are used on Remembrance Day in Australia and all over the world, as well as being inscribed on countless war monuments.
Known as the Ode of Remembrance, they offer poignant consolation for the bereaved, suggesting the men who sacrificed their lives will live forever, untainted by old age, in the minds of current and future generations.
In Australia, the Ode is also part of the Anzac Day recitation. The tradition probably began in 1921 when the Queensland Anzac Day Commemoration Committee printed the poem on the cover of a collection of sermons and addresses.
Additionally, it is recited by men and women of the Australian Defence Force each afternoon at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra, as part of the Last Post Ceremony.
The five-year Anzac Spirit 100th Anniversary Coin Series is drawing to a fitting conclusion in 2018 with key releases dedicated to remembrance.
This silver proof coin pays tribute to the Ode of Remembrance as a solemn expression of sorrow at what befell men in the trenches and on the battlefields, as well as the desire of those they left behind to keep their memory alive for eternity.
It portrays an Australian Army bugler standing among red poppies, some of the first plants to spring up in Europe’s battle devastated countryside. Inspired by the Australian Army’s ‘Rising Sun’ badge, symbolic rays of sunshine radiate from behind a hillock, each one inscribed with the words of the Ode.
With a limited mintage of 7,500, this Australian legal tender release conceived and produced in association with the Australian War Memorial is a significant reminder of the nation’s enduring gratitude to the troops’ courage and sacrifice during the world’s first global conflict.
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