This weekend takes our minds back to all those people who in military action over the last century or more paid the supreme sacrifice for our nation.   Thinking about them I pondered what the phrase “lest we forget” means.   Thoughtlessly I have often repeated the phrase as I have remembered those lost in war.   “Thoughtlessly” because I have not considered what the word “Lest” refers to.  So, I returned to the origin of the phrase to see what the author meant by it.

It comes from Kipling’s famous poem “Recessional”.  He wrote it prior to the First World War, in 1897 at the time of Queen Victoria’s Jubilee.   The Empire was then at its peak and the Jubilee gave ample opportunity to celebrate Britain’s greatness.   

Kipling’s poem is a warning against the hubris of victorious imperialism.  It is a warning not to forget God, not to forget the humble and contrite heart, not to forget how God had brought down other great empires, not to forget the folly of godless boasting, not to put our trust in armaments but in God.

It is an important consideration for us now.  As we remember again the many who have died to make our present nation great, we must not think of ourselves more highly than we ought.  We must remember who really has given us all the good things that we enjoy lest having forgotten God we go the way of other great nations and peoples. 

Verse 1

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!

Verse 2

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!

Verse 3

Far-call’d 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!

Verse 4

If, drunk with sight of power, we loose

     Wild tongues that have not Thee in awe–

Such boasting as the Gentiles use

     Or lesser breeds without the Law–

Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,

Lest we forget, lest we forget!

Verse 5

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!

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