Laurence Binyon
Overview
 
Robert Laurence Binyon (10 August 1869 at Lancaster – 10 March 1943 at Reading, Berkshire
Reading, Berkshire
Reading is a large town and unitary authority area in England. It is located in the Thames Valley at the confluence of the River Thames and River Kennet, and on both the Great Western Main Line railway and the M4 motorway, some west of London....

) was an English poet, dramatist and art scholar. His most famous work, For the Fallen, is well known for being used in Remembrance Sunday
Remembrance Sunday
In the United Kingdom, 'Remembrance Sunday' is held on the second Sunday in November, which is the Sunday nearest to 11 November Armistice Day. It is the anniversary of the end of hostilities in the First World War at 11 a.m...

 services.
Laurence Binyon's parents were Frederick Binyon, a Quaker minister, and Mary Dockray. Mary's father, Robert Benson Dockray, was the main engineer of the London and Birmingham Railway
London and Birmingham Railway
The London and Birmingham Railway was an early railway company in the United Kingdom from 1833 to 1846, when it became part of the London and North Western Railway ....

. The family were Quakers.

Binyon studied at St Paul's School.
Encyclopedia
Robert Laurence Binyon (10 August 1869 at Lancaster – 10 March 1943 at Reading, Berkshire
Reading, Berkshire
Reading is a large town and unitary authority area in England. It is located in the Thames Valley at the confluence of the River Thames and River Kennet, and on both the Great Western Main Line railway and the M4 motorway, some west of London....

) was an English poet, dramatist and art scholar. His most famous work, For the Fallen, is well known for being used in Remembrance Sunday
Remembrance Sunday
In the United Kingdom, 'Remembrance Sunday' is held on the second Sunday in November, which is the Sunday nearest to 11 November Armistice Day. It is the anniversary of the end of hostilities in the First World War at 11 a.m...

 services.

Pre-War life

Laurence Binyon's parents were Frederick Binyon, a Quaker minister, and Mary Dockray. Mary's father, Robert Benson Dockray, was the main engineer of the London and Birmingham Railway
London and Birmingham Railway
The London and Birmingham Railway was an early railway company in the United Kingdom from 1833 to 1846, when it became part of the London and North Western Railway ....

. The family were Quakers.

Binyon studied at St Paul's School. There he read Classics
Classics
Classics is the branch of the Humanities comprising the languages, literature, philosophy, history, art, archaeology and other culture of the ancient Mediterranean world ; especially Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome during Classical Antiquity Classics (sometimes encompassing Classical Studies or...

 (Honour Moderations
Honour Moderations
Honour Moderations are a first set of examinations at Oxford University in England during the first part of the degree course for some courses ....

) at Trinity College, Oxford
Trinity College, Oxford
The College of the Holy and Undivided Trinity in the University of Oxford, of the foundation of Sir Thomas Pope , or Trinity College for short, is one of the constituent colleges of the University of Oxford in England. It stands on Broad Street, next door to Balliol College and Blackwells bookshop,...

, where he won the Newdigate Prize
Newdigate prize
Sir Roger Newdigate's Prize is awarded to students of the University of Oxford for Best Composition in English verse by an undergraduate who has been admitted to Oxford within the previous four years. It was founded by Sir Roger Newdigate, Bt in the 18th century...

 for poetry in 1891.

Immediately after graduating in 1893, Binyon started working for the Department of Printed Books of the British Museum
British Museum
The British Museum is a museum of human history and culture in London. Its collections, which number more than seven million objects, are amongst the largest and most comprehensive in the world and originate from all continents, illustrating and documenting the story of human culture from its...

, writing catalogs
Exhibition catalogue
There are two types of exhibition catalogue : a printed list of exhibits at an art exhibition; and a directory of exhibitors at a trade fair or business-to-business event.-Art or museum exhibition catalogues:...

 for the museum and art monographs for himself. In 1895 his first book, Dutch Etchers of the Seventeenth Century, was published. In that same year, Binyon moved into the Museum's Department of Prints and Drawings, under Campbell Dodgson
Campbell Dodgson
Campbell Dodgson CBE was an art historian and museum curator. He was the Keeper of Prints and Drawings at the British Museum in 1912–1932.-Biography:...

. In 1909, Binyon became its Assistant Keeper, and in 1913 he was made the Keeper of the new Sub-Department of Oriental Prints and Drawings. Around this time he played a crucial role in the formation of Modernism in London by introducing young Imagist poets
Imagism
Imagism was a movement in early 20th-century Anglo-American poetry that favored precision of imagery and clear, sharp language. The Imagists rejected the sentiment and discursiveness typical of much Romantic and Victorian poetry. This was in contrast to their contemporaries, the Georgian poets,...

 such as Ezra Pound
Ezra Pound
Ezra Weston Loomis Pound was an American expatriate poet and critic and a major figure in the early modernist movement in poetry...

, Richard Aldington
Richard Aldington
Richard Aldington , born Edward Godfree Aldington, was an English writer and poet.Aldington was best known for his World War I poetry, the 1929 novel, Death of a Hero, and the controversy arising from his 1955 Lawrence of Arabia: A Biographical Inquiry...

 and H.D.
H.D.
H.D. was an American poet, novelist and memoirist known for her association with the early 20th century avant-garde Imagist group of poets such as Ezra Pound and Richard Aldington...

 to East Asian visual art and literature. Many of Binyon's books produced while at the Museum were influenced by his own sensibilities as a poet, although some are works of plain scholarship - such as his four-volume catalogue of all the Museum's English drawings, and his seminal catalogue of Chinese and Japanese prints.

In 1904 he married historian
Historian
A historian is a person who studies and writes about the past and is regarded as an authority on it. Historians are concerned with the continuous, methodical narrative and research of past events as relating to the human race; as well as the study of all history in time. If the individual is...

 Cicely Margaret Powell, and the couple had three daughters. During those years, Binyon belonged to a circle
Social circle
Social circles are groups of socially interconnected people. A Social circle is distinguished from a social pyramid in that there are two perspectives that can be used to describe a social circle: the perspective of an individual who is the locus of a particular group of socially interconnected...

 of artists, as a regular patron of the Wiener Cafe of London. His fellow intellectuals there were Sir William Rothenstein, Walter Sickert
Walter Sickert
Walter Richard Sickert , born in Munich, Germany, was a painter who was a member of the Camden Town Group in London. He was an important influence on distinctively British styles of avant-garde art in the 20th century....

, Charles Ricketts
Charles Ricketts
Charles de Sousy Ricketts was a versatile English artist, illustrator, author and printer, and is best known for his work as book designer and typographer from 1896 to 1904 with the Vale Press, and his work in the theatre as a set and costume designer.-Life and career:Ricketts was born in Geneva...

, Lucien Pissarro
Lucien Pissarro
Lucien Pissarro was a landscape painter, printmaker, wood engraver and designer and printer of fine books. His landscape paintings employ techniques of Impressionism and Neo-Impressionism, but he also exhibited with Les XX. Apart from his landscapes he painted only a few still-lifes and family...

, Ezra Pound
Ezra Pound
Ezra Weston Loomis Pound was an American expatriate poet and critic and a major figure in the early modernist movement in poetry...

, and Edmund Dulac
Edmund Dulac
Edmund Dulac was a French book illustrator.-Early life and career:Born in Toulouse, France, he began his career by studying law at the University of Toulouse. He also studied art, switching to it full time after he became bored with law, and having won prizes at the Ecole des Beaux Arts...

.

For the Fallen

Moved by the opening of the Great War and the already high number of casualties of the British Expeditionary Force, in 1914 Laurence Binyon wrote his For the Fallen, with its Ode of Remembrance
Ode of Remembrance
The "Ode of Remembrance" is an ode taken from Laurence Binyon's poem "For the Fallen", which was first published in The Times in September 1914....

, as he was visiting the cliffs near Pentire Head in north Cornwall
Cornwall
Cornwall is a unitary authority and ceremonial county of England, within the United Kingdom. It is bordered to the north and west by the Celtic Sea, to the south by the English Channel, and to the east by the county of Devon, over the River Tamar. Cornwall has a population of , and covers an area of...

 (where a plaque commemorates it nowadays.) The piece was published by The Times
The Times
The Times is a British daily national newspaper, first published in London in 1785 under the title The Daily Universal Register . The Times and its sister paper The Sunday Times are published by Times Newspapers Limited, a subsidiary since 1981 of News International...

newspaper in September, when public feeling was affected by the recent Battle of Marne
First Battle of the Marne
The Battle of the Marne was a First World War battle fought between 5 and 12 September 1914. It resulted in an Allied victory against the German Army under Chief of Staff Helmuth von Moltke the Younger. The battle effectively ended the month long German offensive that opened the war and had...

.

Today Binyon's most famous poem, For the Fallen, is often recited at Remembrance Sunday
Remembrance Sunday
In the United Kingdom, 'Remembrance Sunday' is held on the second Sunday in November, which is the Sunday nearest to 11 November Armistice Day. It is the anniversary of the end of hostilities in the First World War at 11 a.m...

 services in the UK, and an integral part of Anzac Day
ANZAC Day
Anzac Day is a national day of remembrance in Australia and New Zealand, commemorated by both countries on 25 April every year to honour the members of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps who fought at Gallipoli in the Ottoman Empire during World War I. It now more broadly commemorates all...

 services in Australia and New Zealand, and 11 November Remembrance Day services in Canada. The third and fourth verses of the poem (although often just the fourth) have so been claimed as a tribute to all casualties of war, regardless of nation.
They went with songs to the battle, they were young.
Straight of limb, true of eyes, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.

At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.


In 1915, despite being too old to enlist in the First World War
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

, Laurence Binyon volunteered at a British hospital for French soldiers, Hôpital Temporaire d'Arc-en-Barrois, Haute-Marne, France, working briefly as a hospital orderly. He returned in the summer of 1916 and took care of soldiers taken in from the Verdun battlefield. He wrote about his experiences in For Dauntless France (1918) and his poems, "Fetching the Wounded" and "The Distant Guns", were inspired by his hospital service in Arc-en-Barrois
Arc-en-Barrois
Arc-en-Barrois is a commune in the Haute-Marne department in Champagne-Ardenne region in north-eastern France.-Geography:The Aujon flows northwestward through the middle of the commune and crosses the town.-See also:*Communes of the Haute-Marne department...

.

Post-war life

After the war, he returned to the British Museum
British Museum
The British Museum is a museum of human history and culture in London. Its collections, which number more than seven million objects, are amongst the largest and most comprehensive in the world and originate from all continents, illustrating and documenting the story of human culture from its...

 and wrote numerous books on art; in particular on William Blake
William Blake
William Blake was an English poet, painter, and printmaker. Largely unrecognised during his lifetime, Blake is now considered a seminal figure in the history of both the poetry and visual arts of the Romantic Age...

, Persian art, and Japanese art
Japanese art
Japanese art covers a wide range of art styles and media, including ancient pottery, sculpture in wood and bronze, ink painting on silk and paper and more recently manga, cartoon, along with a myriad of other types of works of art...

. His work on ancient Japanese and Chinese cultures offered strongly contextualised examples that inspired, among others, the poets Ezra Pound
Ezra Pound
Ezra Weston Loomis Pound was an American expatriate poet and critic and a major figure in the early modernist movement in poetry...

 and W.B. Yeats
William Butler Yeats
William Butler Yeats was an Irish poet and playwright, and one of the foremost figures of 20th century literature. A pillar of both the Irish and British literary establishments, in his later years he served as an Irish Senator for two terms...

. His work on Blake and his followers kept alive the then nearly-forgotten memory of the work of Samuel Palmer
Samuel Palmer
Samuel Palmer was a British landscape painter, etcher and printmaker. He was also a prolific writer. Palmer was a key figure in Romanticism in Britain and produced visionary pastoral paintings.-Early life:...

. Binyon's duality of interests continued the traditional interest of British visionary Romanticism
Romanticism
Romanticism was an artistic, literary and intellectual movement that originated in the second half of the 18th century in Europe, and gained strength in reaction to the Industrial Revolution...

 in the rich strangeness of Mediterranean and Oriental cultures.

In 1931, his two volume Collected Poems appeared. In 1932, Binyon rose to be the Keeper of the Prints and Drawings Department, yet in 1933 he retired from the British Museum. He went to live in the country at Westridge Green, near Streatley
Streatley, Berkshire
Streatley is a village and civil parish on the River Thames in Berkshire, England.-Location:Streatley is about from Reading and from Oxford. It is in the Goring Gap on the River Thames and is directly across the river from the Oxfordshire village of Goring-on-Thames...

 (where his daughters also came to live during the Second World War
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

). He continued further writing poetry.

In 1933–1934, Binyon was appointed Norton
Charles Eliot Norton
Charles Eliot Norton, was a leading American author, social critic, and professor of art. He was a militant idealist, a progressive social reformer, and a liberal activist whom many of his contemporaries considered the most cultivated man in the United States.-Biography:Norton was born at...

 Professor of Poetry at Harvard. He delivered a series of lectures on The Spirit of Man in Asian Art, which were published in 1935. Binyon continued his academic work: in May 1939 he gave the prestigious Romanes Lecture
Romanes Lecture
The Romanes Lecture is a prestigious free public lecture given annually at the Sheldonian Theatre, Oxford, England.The lecture series was founded by, and named after, the biologist George Romanes, and has been running since 1892. Over the years, many notable figures from the Arts and Sciences have...

 in Oxford
University of Oxford
The University of Oxford is a university located in Oxford, United Kingdom. It is the second-oldest surviving university in the world and the oldest in the English-speaking world. Although its exact date of foundation is unclear, there is evidence of teaching as far back as 1096...

 on Art and Freedom, and in 1940 he was appointed the Byron Professor of English Literature at University of Athens
National and Kapodistrian University of Athens
The National and Kapodistrian University of Athens , usually referred to simply as the University of Athens, is the oldest university in Southeast Europe and has been in continuous operation since its establishment in 1837. Today, it is the second-largest institution of higher learning in Greece,...

. He worked there until forced to leave, narrowly escaping before the German invasion of Greece in April 1941.

Binyon had been friends with Ezra Pound
Ezra Pound
Ezra Weston Loomis Pound was an American expatriate poet and critic and a major figure in the early modernist movement in poetry...

 since around 1909, and in the 1930s the two became especially friendly—Pound affectionately called him "BinBin", and closely assisted Binyon with his Dante translation work. Another Binyon protege was Arthur Waley
Arthur Waley
Arthur David Waley CH, CBE was an English orientalist and sinologist.-Life:Waley was born in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, England, as Arthur David Schloss, son of the economist David Frederick Schloss...

, whom Binyon employed at the British Museum. Binyon also introduced Robert Frost
Robert Frost
Robert Lee Frost was an American poet. He is highly regarded for his realistic depictions of rural life and his command of American colloquial speech. His work frequently employed settings from rural life in New England in the early twentieth century, using them to examine complex social and...

 to the young Robert Bridges
Robert Bridges
Robert Seymour Bridges, OM, was a British poet, and poet laureate from 1913 to 1930.-Personal and professional life:...

.

Between 1933 and 1943, Binyon published an acclaimed translation of Dante
Dante Alighieri
Durante degli Alighieri, mononymously referred to as Dante , was an Italian poet, prose writer, literary theorist, moral philosopher, and political thinker. He is best known for the monumental epic poem La commedia, later named La divina commedia ...

's Divina commedia in an English version of terza rima
Terza rima
Terza rima is a rhyming verse stanza form that consists of an interlocking three-line rhyme scheme. It was first used by the Italian poet Dante Alighieri.-Form:Terza rima is a three-line stanza using chain rhyme in the pattern A-B-A, B-C-B, C-D-C, D-E-D...

. At his death he was also working on a major three-part Arthurian
King Arthur
King Arthur is a legendary British leader of the late 5th and early 6th centuries, who, according to Medieval histories and romances, led the defence of Britain against Saxon invaders in the early 6th century. The details of Arthur's story are mainly composed of folklore and literary invention, and...

 trilogy, the first part of which was published after his death as The Madness of Merlin (1947).

There is a slate
Slate
Slate is a fine-grained, foliated, homogeneous metamorphic rock derived from an original shale-type sedimentary rock composed of clay or volcanic ash through low-grade regional metamorphism. The result is a foliated rock in which the foliation may not correspond to the original sedimentary layering...

 memorial at Aldworth
Aldworth
Aldworth is a small village and civil parish in the English county of Berkshire, close to the modern northern county boundary with Oxfordshire. It is in the rural area between Reading, Newbury and Streatley. The parish includes the neighbouring hamlet of Westridge Green.Aldworth is on the high...

, St. Mary's Church, where Binyon's ashes were scattered after death. On 11 November 1985, Binyon was among 16 Great War poets commemorated on a slate stone unveiled in Westminster Abbey
Westminster Abbey
The Collegiate Church of St Peter at Westminster, popularly known as Westminster Abbey, is a large, mainly Gothic church, in the City of Westminster, London, United Kingdom, located just to the west of the Palace of Westminster. It is the traditional place of coronation and burial site for English,...

's Poet's Corner. The inscription on the stone was written by a fellow Great War poet, Wilfred Owen
Wilfred Owen
Wilfred Edward Salter Owen MC was an English poet and soldier, one of the leading poets of the First World War...

. It reads: "My subject is War, and the pity of War. The Poetry is in the pity."

Daughters

His three daughters Helen, Margaret and Nicolete
Nicolete Gray
Nicolete Gray was an English art scholar, and exponent and scholar of calligraphy. She was the youngest daughter of the poet, dramatist and art scholar Laurence Binyon and his wife, writer, editor and translator Cicely Margaret Pryor Powell...

  became artists. Helen Binyon (1904–1979) studied with Paul Nash
Paul Nash (artist)
Paul Nash was a British landscape painter, surrealist and war artist, as well as a book-illustrator, writer and designer of applied art. He was the older brother of the artist John Nash.-Early life:...

 and Eric Ravilious
Eric Ravilious
Eric William Ravilious was an English painter, designer, book illustrator and wood engraver.-Career:Ravilious studied at Eastbourne School of Art, and at the Royal College of Art, where he studied under Paul Nash and became close friends with Edward Bawden.He began his working life as a muralist,...

, illustrating many books for the Oxford University Press
Oxford University Press
Oxford University Press is the largest university press in the world. It is a department of the University of Oxford and is governed by a group of 15 academics appointed by the Vice-Chancellor known as the Delegates of the Press. They are headed by the Secretary to the Delegates, who serves as...

, and was also a marionettist. She later taught puppetry and published Puppetry Today (1966) and Professional Puppetry in England (1973). Margaret Binyon wrote children's books, which were illustrated by Helen. Nicolete, as Nicolete Gray
Nicolete Gray
Nicolete Gray was an English art scholar, and exponent and scholar of calligraphy. She was the youngest daughter of the poet, dramatist and art scholar Laurence Binyon and his wife, writer, editor and translator Cicely Margaret Pryor Powell...

, was a distinguished calligrapher
Calligraphy
Calligraphy is a type of visual art. It is often called the art of fancy lettering . A contemporary definition of calligraphic practice is "the art of giving form to signs in an expressive, harmonious and skillful manner"...

 and art scholar.

Poems and verse

  • Lyric Poems (1894)
  • Porphyrion and other Poems (1898)
  • Odes (1901)
  • Death of Adam and Other Poems (1904)
  • London Visions (1908)
  • England and Other Poems (1909)
  • "For The Fallen", The Times, 21 September 1914
  • Winnowing Fan (1914)
  • The Anvil (1916)
  • The Cause (1917)
  • The New World: Poems (1918)
  • The Idols (1928)
  • Collected Poems Vol 1: London Visions, Narrative Poems, Translations. (1931)
  • Collected Poems Vol 2: Lyrical Poems. (1931)
  • The North Star and Other Poems (1941)
  • The Burning of the Leaves and Other Poems (1944)
  • The Madness of Merlin (1947)

Edward Elgar
Edward Elgar
Sir Edward William Elgar, 1st Baronet OM, GCVO was an English composer, many of whose works have entered the British and international classical concert repertoire. Among his best-known compositions are orchestral works including the Enigma Variations, the Pomp and Circumstance Marches, concertos...

 set to music three of Binyon's poems ("The Fourth of August", "To Women", and "For the Fallen", published within the collection "The Winnowing Fan") as The Spirit of England, Op. 80, for tenor or soprano solo, chorus and orchestra (1917).

English arts & myth

  • Dutch Etchers of the Seventeenth Century (1895), Binyon's first book on painting.
  • John Crone and John Sell Cotman (1897)
  • William Blake
    William Blake
    William Blake was an English poet, painter, and printmaker. Largely unrecognised during his lifetime, Blake is now considered a seminal figure in the history of both the poetry and visual arts of the Romantic Age...

    : Being all his Woodcuts Photographically Reproduced in Facsimile
    (1902)
  • English Poetry in its relation to painting and the other arts (1918)
  • Drawings and Engravings of William Blake (1922)
  • Arthur
    King Arthur
    King Arthur is a legendary British leader of the late 5th and early 6th centuries, who, according to Medieval histories and romances, led the defence of Britain against Saxon invaders in the early 6th century. The details of Arthur's story are mainly composed of folklore and literary invention, and...

    : A Tragedy
    (1923)
  • The Followers of William Blake (1925)
  • The Engraved Designs of William Blake (1926)
  • Landscape in English Art and Poetry (1931)
  • English Watercolours (1933)
  • Gerard Hopkins
    Gerard Manley Hopkins
    Gerard Manley Hopkins, S.J. was an English poet, Roman Catholic convert, and Jesuit priest, whose posthumous 20th-century fame established him among the leading Victorian poets...

     and his influence
    (1939)
  • Art and freedom. (The Romanes lecture
    Romanes Lecture
    The Romanes Lecture is a prestigious free public lecture given annually at the Sheldonian Theatre, Oxford, England.The lecture series was founded by, and named after, the biologist George Romanes, and has been running since 1892. Over the years, many notable figures from the Arts and Sciences have...

    , delivered 25 May 1939). Oxford: The Clarendon press, (1939)

Japanese & Persian arts

  • Painting in the Far East (1908)
  • Japanese Art (1909)
  • Flight of the Dragon (1911)
  • The Court Painters of the Grand Moguls (1921)
  • Japanese Colour Prints (1923)
  • The Poems of Nizami (1928) (Translation)
  • Persian Miniature Painting (1933)
  • The Spirit of Man in Asian Art (1936)

Stage plays

  • Brief Candles (Richard III
    Richard III of England
    Richard III was King of England for two years, from 1483 until his death in 1485 during the Battle of Bosworth Field. He was the last king of the House of York and the last of the Plantagenet dynasty...

    's life as a verse-drama)
  • "Paris and Oenone", 1906
  • Godstow Nunnery: Play
  • Boadicea
    Boudica
    Boudica , also known as Boadicea and known in Welsh as "Buddug" was queen of the British Iceni tribe who led an uprising against the occupying forces of the Roman Empire....

    ; A Play in eight Scenes
  • Attila: a Tragedy in Four Acts
  • Ayuli: a Play in three Acts and an Epilogue
  • Sophro the Wise: a Play for Children


(Most of the above were written for John Masefield
John Masefield
John Edward Masefield, OM, was an English poet and writer, and Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom from 1930 until his death in 1967...

's theatre).

Charles Villiers Stanford
Charles Villiers Stanford
Sir Charles Villiers Stanford was an Irish composer who was particularly notable for his choral music. He was professor at the Royal College of Music and University of Cambridge.- Life :...

 wrote incidental music
Incidental music
Incidental music is music in a play, television program, radio program, video game, film or some other form not primarily musical. The term is less frequently applied to film music, with such music being referred to instead as the "film score" or "soundtrack"....

for Attila in 1907.

Further reading

  • Hatcher, John (1995) Laurence Binyon: poet, scholar of East and West. Oxford: Clarendon Press ISBN 0-19-812296-9

External links

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