Comment: The ANZAC Legacy

In 1914 the poet Laurence Binyon wrote the poem "For the Fallen" , the fourth verse of which has wide use on Anzac Day.

The verse reads in part, "They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old : Age shall not weary them, nor the years contemn."

Sadly, the word contemn, which means to despise, has been replaced with the word condemn, which means to express disapproval.

This Anzac day we need to condemn the incorrect usage of the word as we remember the fallen.
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Reply By: Member - Mfewster(SA) - Saturday, Mar 31, 2012 at 17:58

Saturday, Mar 31, 2012 at 17:58
Interesting point that I wasn't aware of. I would have thought however that the use of "condemn" is more appropriate to the sense of the poem than "contemn", given that the subject of the sentence that the verb refers to is "the years." "Condemn" is also the passing of sentence and I believe that this is the sense that is being used here. ie, they are being condemned to old age.
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Follow Up By: Member - Mfewster(SA) - Saturday, Mar 31, 2012 at 18:00

Saturday, Mar 31, 2012 at 18:00
Sorry, my last sentence should have read "The years are not condemning them to old age.
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Reply By: Member - John M1 (NSW) - Sunday, Apr 01, 2012 at 07:32

Sunday, Apr 01, 2012 at 07:32
Laurence Binyon, a 45 year old Quaker in 1914, read Classics at Oxford where he won a prize for poetry.The poem " For the Fallen " was published in 1914 after 2,500,00 soldiers fought the Battle of the Marne, where the casualties on both sides were nearly 500,000. I am sure he deliberated on his choice of words, and I would not attempt to second guess the meaning of any words he chose to use.
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Reply By: Member - Paul B (WA) - Monday, Apr 02, 2012 at 22:16

Monday, Apr 02, 2012 at 22:16
This is a complete fabrication. The word contemn HAS NEVER formed part of this wonderful poem. The poem was first published in The Times in in 1914 with the word condemn. It was subsequently published in the same form over and over, before this spelling emerged in recent decades.

Every year this little furphy gets a run somewhere and creates a completely unnecessary distraction away from the central theme both of this poem, and of Anzac Day itself, which is to remember and pay our respects for those who did not return from battlefields all around the world. For those of us who never served in our armed services, it's also an opportunity to thank those who did our dirty work for us.

I would refer people to the official Anzac Day website, which addresses this very point: http://www.anzacday.org.au/education/tff/rememwords.html

Paul B Kalgoorlie

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