We Shall Remember Them


The lads in their hundreds to Ludlow come in for the fair,
  There’s men from the barn and the forge and the mill and the fold,
The lads for the girls and the lads for the liquor are there,
  And there with the rest are the lads that will never be old.
There’s chaps from the town and the field and the till and the cart,
  And many to count are the stalwart, and many the brave,
And many the handsome of face and the handsome of heart,
  And few that will carry their looks or their truth to the grave.
I wish one could know them, I wish there were tokens to tell
  The fortunate fellows that now you can never discern;
And then one could talk with them friendly and wish them farewell
  And watch them depart on the way that they will not return.
But now you may stare as you like and there’s nothing to scan;
  And brushing your elbow unguessed-at and not to be told
They carry back bright to the coiner the mintage of man,
  The lads that will die in their glory and never be old.

From A E Housman – A Shropshire Lad.  Housman’s poems were published in 1896 and referred to the Boer War, but they were seen as prophetic of the Great War, and many a soldier carried a copy into the trenches.

In a Remembrance Day programme on BBC Radio 3 this morning, Jeremy Sams played a setting of this poem by George Butterworth (1885-1916), who died on the Somme.

Update, 2010:  here is an audio file of the Butterworth setting, sung by Christopher Maltman (from a BBC Music Magazine CD):

Explore posts in the same categories: music, poetry

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2 Comments on “We Shall Remember Them”

  1. Clover Says:

    Is your Remembrance Day the same day as our Veteran’s Day?

    This brings to my mind the song from the movie about Edit Piaf, La Vie en Rose. “Heaven Have a Mercy.”

    Will they never learn?

  2. jonathanburton Says:

    11 November, Armistice Day — end of World War One. Peace was signed at ‘the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month’ in 1918. So we observe a two-minute silence at 11 am. And we all wear little paper poppies for remembrance. The story is that the battlefields of Flanders had a particularly rich crop of poppies at the end of the War, some say because of all the blood that had soaked into the soil.

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