What does Lest We Forget mean? – The Sun

ON November 14, we will remember soldiers lost in warfare with a two minute silence.

Many will also hear the phrase Lest We Forget in usage throughout the day. Here's the story behind the famous words often used to commemorate the end of the First World War in 1918.

What does Lest We Forget mean?

The phrase "lest we forget" is intended to warn people against forgetting those who fought and died for their country.

Its literal translation is "should not be forgotten".

This is why it is often heard during Remembrance Day commemorations.

It is often inscribed on war memorials and graves.

The simple quote asks people to remember the fallen and the sacrifices they made.

However the phrase was coined more than a decade before the ending of World War I.

Where does Lest We Forget come from?

The phrase "lest we forget" is thought to come from the poem Recessional by Rudyard Kipling, which was written for Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee in 1897.

Kipling himself took inspiration from the Bible – namely Deuteronomy 6 verse 12, which reads: "Then beware lest thou forget the Lord which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt".

The poem doesn't touch upon remembering fallen soldiers, but has been adopted as part of Armistice Day traditions.

Kipling wrote the poem at the height of the British Empire and warned of the perils of imperialism rather than national sacrifice and recommended putting trust in God.

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What are the words to Rudyard Kipling's Recessional poem?

The Recessional poem contains five stanzas of six lines each.

The poem was first published in The Times on July 17, 1897.

Initially, Kipling did not intend to write a poem for the Jubilee and it went against the celebratory mood of the time, providing instead a reminder of the transient nature of British Imperial power.


Rudyard Kipling’s Recessional poem

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!

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