It’s Remembrance Day. 11/11/11.

News Limited (soon to be News Australia) has published ads in its print newspapers – blank pages apart from the words “Lest We Forget” at the bottom, with a picture of a poppy, on the suggestion of ad agency Clemenger BBDO in Adelaide. Nice idea. I posted a comment on the mumbrella article that brought this blank-page-ad to my attention and included a piece saying I don’t like the expression “Lest We Forget” which is widely accepted in Australia as the expression to remember “the Diggers” lost in the wars. I prefer a positive expression, like, So We Remember. I feel strongly that we should remember the lives lost. And TRY not to repeat the attrocities of the past. (But we will, won’t we?)

I’ve since found out that I’m arguing poetic expression with Rudyard Kipling and his poem “Recessional” written at the end of the 19th century:

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!

And this is sung as a hymn in Australia, especially on Rememberance Sunday. That’s how it’s been built into Aussie everyday vernacular.

War Atrocities Museum, HCMC, Vietnam

I wonder if everyone knows this is from a Kipling poem written about pride in the British Empire and woe that it might fall like other empires have fallen. A story of hubris vs humility, lest we forget that we are fallible. I stand corrected. I will happily enjoy the expression Lest We Forget. It’s not just about remember the lives lost. It’s about remembering our fallibility, our mortality… and our idiocy and the attrocities we have committed.