True story behind the iconic Remembrance Day phrase "Lest we forget"

As Remembrance Day arrives, we often hear the commemorative phrase "Lest we forget" as we remember fallen soldiers from World War I across the British Commonwealth.

The Great War, as the World War I is commonly referred to, is estimated to have contributed to the deaths of 40 million people worldwide, and is quite fairly seen as the bloodiest war in history.

The phrase encapsulates our desire to remember the past tragedy and sacrifice and ensure that such bloody catastrophe never happens again.

"Lest we forget" is often said along with the "Ode of Remembrance" by Laurence Binyons.

However, where does the phrase "Lest we forget" originate from?

Mirror Online breaks down the use of the historically iconic phrase.

Where does "Lest we forget" come from?

The phrase originates in a Victorian poem by writer Rudyard Kipling, who composed it before it was then used to commentate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria in 1897, when it was published in The Times.

The poem, five stanzas in length and comprised of six lines each, was titled Recessional.

Recessional seems a repetition of the phrase "Lest we forget" at the end of each of the first four stanzas.

The full poem Recessional by Rudyard Kipling

God of our fathers, known of old,
Lord of our far-flung battle line,
Beneath whose awful hand we hold
Dominion over palm and pine—
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget!

The tumult and the shouting dies;
The Captains and the Kings depart:
Still stands Thine ancient sacrifice,
An humble and a contrite heart.
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget!

Far-called our navies melt away;
On dune and headland sinks the fire:
Lo, all our pomp of yesterday
Is one with Nineveh and Tyre!
Judge of the Nations, spare us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget!

If, drunk with sight of power, we loose
Wild tongues that have not Thee in awe,
Such boastings as the Gentiles use,
Or lesser breeds without the Law—
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget!

For heathen heart that puts her trust
In reeking tube and iron shard,
All valiant dust that builds on dust,
And guarding calls not Thee to guard,
For frantic boast and foolish word—
Thy Mercy on Thy People, Lord!

The poem is thought to represent the transient nature of the British Empire, and how nothing lasts forever, taking a solemn and grave tone.

It is not a poem about war, but its grim realism and lack of jingoism perhaps befits the universal sadness after World War I.

Why is it used for Remembrance Day?

The line "Lest we forget", is often added as if were part of the ode "For the Fallen" by Laurence Binyons, and is repeated in response by those listening, and is particularly popular in Australia.

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.

A number of 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, "We will remember them", is often repeated in response.

The sense of legacy from the quote "Lest we forget" and the need to acknowledge sacrifice is often why it is included.

Read More

WW1 Remembrance

  • Latest updates
  • How did the war start?
  • Lest We Forget meaning
  • Teen’s moving poem

Source: Read Full Article