“Lest we forget” are words strongly associated with Anzac Day. They come from the poem Recessional by Rudyard Kipling. The poem was written in 1897 for the occasion of Queen Victoria‘s Diamond Jubilee.
Kipling refused to accept any payment for the poem, as he was so keen to get its message across.
A recessional is a piece of music sung or played at the end of a church service, so Kipling’s poem is in the nature of a hymn or work of devotion. The nation was in celebratory mood, with the Queen’s jubilee, and Kipling’s poem went against that.
Kipling fears that the British Empire might go to war, a sure way to eventually result in its destruction. He wants his readers to remember not the glory of war, but its horrors, the wasteful deaths of young men. He argues against the boasting and jingoism that so often cause wars.
Kipling did not then know that his only son, John, would die in the horrors of WWI battlefields. The poem was sung at Kipling’s own funeral.
Kipling’s poem is often said or sung in Australia and NZ on Anzac Day. Hear a reading by Millennial Woes here:
As we mark one of Australia’s most important national occasions share your thoughts the comments area below. LEST WE FORGET.
Susannah Fullerton: Rudyard Kipling: Novelist and Poet of Empire
Susannah Fullerton: Book of the Month – The Elephant’s Child
Susannah Fullerton: The Kipling Suite
Susannah Fullerton: Lest We Forget
Susannah Fullerton: A Smuggler’s Song