Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Their name liveth for evermore...

Their name liveth for evermore...

O Valiant Hearts!

O valiant hearts who to your glory came
Through dust of conflict and through battle flame;
Tranquil you lie, your knightly virtue proved,
Your memory hallowed in the land you loved.

Proudly you gathered, rank on rank, to war
As who had heard God’s message from afar;
All you had hoped for, all you had, you gave,
To save mankind—yourselves you scorned to save.

Splendid you passed, the great surrender made;
Into the light that nevermore shall fade;
Deep your contentment in that blest abode,
Who wait the last clear trumpet call of God.

Long years ago, as earth lay dark and still,
Rose a loud cry upon a lonely hill,
While in the frailty of our human clay,
Christ, our Redeemer, passed the self same way.

Still stands His Cross from that dread hour to this,
Like some bright star above the dark abyss;
Still, through the veil, the Victor’s pitying eyes
Look down to bless our lesser Calvaries.

These were His servants, in His steps they trod,
Following through death the martyred Son of God:
Victor, He rose; victorious too shall rise
They who have drunk His cup of sacrifice.

O risen Lord, O Shepherd of our dead,
Whose cross has bought them and Whose staff has led,
In glorious hope their proud and sorrowing land
Commits her children to Thy gracious hand.

The Next War

by Wilfred Owen

Out there, we've walked quite friendly up to Death, —
Sat down and eaten with him, cool and bland, —
Pardoned his spilling mess-tins in our hand.
We've sniffed the green thick odour of his breath, —
Our eyes wept, but our courage didn't writhe.
He's spat at us with bullets and he's coughed
Shrapnel. We chorussed when he sang aloft,
We whistled while he shaved us with his scythe.

Oh, Death was never enemy of ours!
We laughed at him, we leagued with him, old chum.
No soldier's paid to kick against His powers.
We laughed, — knowing that better men would come,
And greater wars: when each proud fighter brags
He wars on Death, for lives; not men, for flags.

We are in the season of Remembrance Day - Martinmas, the Feast of St Martin, the Roman imperial officer who became a bishop.

Let us remember those who are serving in Afghanistan and other theatres of war and let us especially remember the dead and pray for them.

Let us also remember those who died in the two world wars and wars since.

Tyne Cot cemetery near Passchendaele, Flanders
where my grandfather and others of my family fought in battle

Once again, I would like especially to remember the officers and men from that most forgotten Division of all the regiments of the British Army at any time, anywhere, ever.

I mean the 10th and 16th Irish Divisions and their respective regiments.

These brave and dutiful soldiers are little remembered today because the Ireland from which they enlisted to fight for the freedom of small nations had, by 1918, undergone a radical sea-change in national aspirations because of the Rebellion of 1916, the reaction to it and the War of Independence of 1919-20 and the Civil War of 1920-21.

These most noble and brave Irish Divisions vanished into limbo, without honour, lying in an unquiet grave, forgotten by their own country and their own countrymen, save the brave and loyal families of the dead themselves, who were left to grieve alone, forgotten, even reviled, though their sons had faithfully answered the call of the Irish parliamentary leaders, John Redmond MP and John Dillon MP.

It is a little known fact that more Irishmen from the South served in the British Army and fought – in BOTH World Wars – than did those from the so-called “Loyalist” North.

Let us also remember the very young men from other parts of the British isles, too, who died in that terrible war that served to decimate Europe.

I can never help but think of the young lives lost in the First World War - that useless, pointless war brought about by the enemies of civilisation, of peace and - above all - of Christianity. Having started the war, the enemies of Christianity then did their level best to prevent it ending until every Christian nation had either toppled (like Austria-Hungary) or else had been bled half to death.

I think of young men like 19-year-old Roland Leighton, the poet and fiancée of Vera Brittain, who died of wounds on the Western Front.

"Goodnight, though life and all take flight, never goodbye..."
Inscription on the grave of Roland Leighton, the 19-year-old English poet.

God grant them all eternal rest...

In Flanders Fields
by Lt Col John McCrae, May 1915

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

At a Calvary near the Ancre
by Wilfred Owen

One ever hangs where shelled roads part.
In this war He too lost a limb,
But His disciples hide apart;
And now the Soldiers bear with Him.

Near Golgotha strolls many a priest,
And in their faces there is pride
That they were flesh-marked by the Beast
By whom the gentle Christ's denied.

The scribes on all the people shove
And bawl allegiance to the state,
But they who love the greater love
Lay down their life; they do not hate.

Let us remember, too, the men of the Burma Star Association who fought - and especially those who died - in the great Burma campaign in the 14th Army - the "forgotten army" - against the savage power of the Japanese Imperial Army.

"When You Go Home, Tell Them Of Us And Say,
For Their Tomorrow, We Gave Our Today"

(John Maxwell Edmonds (1875 -1958), 1916)

The Kohima memorial

St Martin of Tours, pray for all our brave boys who gave their lives...

Their name, indeed, liveth for evermore...