Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Lest We Forget

When I was in school we never had November 11th off. The principal (who had driven ambulances in London during the Blitz) believed this day of all days should be spent working not sleeping in or watching television. We had a service at 11 o'clock and for many years I read the poem printed below as part of it. I recommend you read it out loud.

A soldier's prayer

(This poem by an unknown writer was found in the desert during the battle of El Agheila, December 14th, 1942. It was quoted by Field-Marshall Montgomery in his personal message to the 21st Army Group before the attack on the Rhine, and reproduced in the English Digest.)

Stay with me God. The night is dark,
The night is cold. My little spark
Of courage dies. The night is long,
Be with me God, and make me strong.
I love a game, I love a fight.
I hate the dark, I love the light,
I love my child, I love my wife,
I am no coward. I love life

Life with its changes of mood and shade,
I want to live. I'm not afraid,
But me and mine are hard to part -
Oh, unknown God, Lift up my heart.
You stilled the waters at Dunkirk
And saved your servants. All your work
Is wonderful, Dear God. You strode
Before us down that dreadful road.

We were alone and hope had fled.
We loved our country and our dead,
And could not shame them, so we stayed
The course, and were not much afraid.
Dear God, that nightmare road! And then
That sea! We got there... We were men,
My eyes were blind, my feet were torn,
My soul sang like a bird at dawn!

I'm but the son my mother bore,

A simple man and nothing more.

But - God of strength and gentleness,

Be pleased to make me nothing less.

Help me, Oh God, when death is near
To mock the haggard face of fear,
That when I fall - if fall I must -
My soul may triumph in the dust.


  1. Beautiful poem! We always had services at school on Remembrance Day. I feel the same way as your principal did, it is a day to remember and to honour.

  2. Thank you, Elspeth, for reminding us all of what we owe to those who made the ultimate sacrifice for their countries. May we never forget....

  3. Beautiful poem.
    Living in the US, I miss the old men from the Legion selling poppies for Remeberance Day.

  4. Sorry, that should be *Remembrance*
    Quite the typo :(

  5. How appropriate, for today and always.

  6. Not all schools are off, my husband is a PE teacher and his students are hard at play!! When I was a bank employee I will admit that I savored those days off. We all tend to get worked so hard, it is easy to want to sleep in once in a while or spend time with loved ones! We should be grateful to our soldiers present and past every day anyway not just once a year.

  7. Perfect poem for today...and every day!

    We didn't get out for Veteran's Day either. Apparently the schools here don't. I went with my boyfriend to have lunch at his daughter's school and they're a public school. They got out to go march in the Vet's Day parade, but they had a full day otherwise.

  8. I have of course read a lot of Vet Day tribute posts today. But simply posting that touching, powerful and simple prayer makes this post my favorite of all of them. Thank you. And God bless and be with soldiers of ALL nations as they face off against each other, following the directives of their nation's leaders. I'll bet if leaders of nations had to fight their own wars instead of sending their young people off into battle we would have a world of peace.

    Marvin D Wilson

  9. Deb; It is a beautiful poem, isn't it?

    Margot; Writing in the period I do, this day has a great deal of meaning for me.

    Carolyn; They don't sell poppies in the US?

    Sheila; It is a day to be grateful for what we have and why we have it.

    Stephanie; Interesting; up here in BC all public schools are closed today.

    Old Silly; Thank you, what a lovely thing for you to write! I echo your prayer.

  10. This is so touching, Elspeth. Thanks so much for the reminder and the tribute.

    No poppies here. Sometimes we have parades. :) We're noisy in the States....

    Mystery Writing is Murder

  11. that was wonderful. thanks so much for sharing.

  12. Beautiful poem. I read it as a child, but had forgotten it. Thanks for bringing it back for me.

  13. Haunting. Thank you for sharing with us.

  14. Did I mention that I love this poem and it takes my breath away? Cuz it does... even the second reading.


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