The Ode

The following was written by Pericles, well over two thousand years ago, long before the first ANZAC Day, but only a stone’s throw from Gallipoli:

“Each has won a glorious grave – not that sepulchre of earth wherein they lie, but the living tomb of everlasting remembrance wherein their glory is enshrined.  For the whole earth is the sepulchre of heroes.  Monuments may rise and tablets be set up to them in their own land, but on far-off shores there is an abiding memorial that no pen or chisel has traced; it is graven not on stone or brass, but on the living hearts of humanity.  Take these men for your example.  Like them, remember that prosperity can be only for the free, that freedom is the sure possession of those alone who have the courage to defend it.”

Engraved forever at ANZAC Cove are these words from Kemal Ataturk, the Commander of the Turkish 19th Division during the Gallipoli Campaign and the first President of the Turkish Republic from 1924-1938.

“Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives.  You are now living in the soil of a friendly country therefore rest in peace.  There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side here in this country of ours.  You, the mothers, who sent their sons from faraway countries wipe away your tears; your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace.  After having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well.”

The fourth stanza of the Poem, For the Fallen encapsulates the thoughts behind tributes to the fallen.

The Ode is taken from the elegy For The Fallen, by English poet and writer Laurence Binyon (1869–1943) and was published in London in The Winnowing Fan; Poems of the Great War in 1914.  It was selected in 1919 to accompany the unveiling of the London Cenotaph and, like so many memorial traditions, passed into common use across the Commonwealth. 

The fourth verse, which became the League’s Ode, was already used in association with commemoration services in Australia in 1921 and not only adorns War Memorials throughout the British Commonwealth, but is at the heart of all rites of the RSL.