Lest We Forget

A little over one hundred years ago the British Empire had reached its greatest height in terms of geographical extent and political power.  The saying was, “The sun never sets on the British Empire.”  — and that saying was literally true.  From New Delhi to Cape Town, from Toronto to Sydney, ultimate allegiance was to the British monarch, and much wealth from these vast lands flowed into the imperial coffers or enriched British traders and merchants.

 There was much to criticize about the British Empire.  Even as they brought a level of civilization and order to lands often torn apart by tribalism and internecine warfare, the British were often arrogant and exploitative in their treatment of native peoples.  Yet, the empire also served to promote literacy, democratic institutions, and Christian missions.

 Who would have thought that in a scant six decades that magnificent edifice of power would have crumbled as if dust?

 In the last days of the 19th Century, during those heady days of empire, a young author/poet* penned the following lines:

                      God of our fathers, known of old, Lord of our far-flung batttleline

                      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 the pomp of yesterday is one with Nineveh and Tyre:

                      Judge of the nations, spare us yet, lest we forget, lest we forget.

 

As for our own dear country, so blessed with resources of every kind — truly a land of milk and honey, God calls to us through the ages still — Do not forget!  Do not forget!   (Deut 8: 11)

 

 * Rudyard Kipling

 

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