Monday, June 1, 2015

"She faced them gentle and bold" - Nurse Edith Cavell

 Edith Cavell by Laurence Binyon

She was binding the wounds of her enemies when they came—
 The lint in her hand unrolled.
They battered the door with their rifle-butts, crashed it in:
 She faced them gentle and bold.

They haled her before the judges where they sat        
 In their places, helmet on head.
With question and menace the judges assailed her, “Yes,
 I have broken your law,” she said.

“I have tended the hurt and hidden the hunted, have done
 As a sister does to a brother,        
Because of a law that is greater than that you have made,
 Because I could do none other.

“Deal as you will with me. This is my choice to the end,
 To live in the life I vowed.”
“She is self-confessed,” they cried; “she is self-condemned.        
 She shall die, that the rest may be cowed.”

In the terrible hour of the dawn, when the veins are cold,
 They led her forth to the wall.
“I have loved my land,” she said, “but it is not enough:
 Love requires of me all.        

“I will empty my heart of the bitterness, hating none.”
 And sweetness filled her brave
With a vision of understanding beyond the hour
 That knelled to the waiting grave.

They bound her eyes, but she stood as if she shone.        
 The rifles it was that shook
When the hoarse command rang out. They could not endure
 That last, that defenceless look.

And the officer strode and pistolled her surely, ashamed
 That men, seasoned in blood,        
Should quail at a woman, only a woman,—
 As a flower stamped in the mud. 

As we continue worldwide to mark the centenary of the First World War, The Royal Mint in the United Kingdom has chosen to remember one of the most prominent female casualties of the First World War – Nurse Edith Cavell – on a new coin.

Edith Cavell was a British nurse who was executed in 1915 for helping Allied soldiers escape German-occupied Brussels during the First World War. Her death was highly controversial at the time.  

On the coin are words from the poem above by Laurence Binyon called 'Edith Cavell' "she faced them gentle and bold"  I have not reproduced the whole poem and the link below will take you to a copy of the full version.  Laurence Binyon is well known for his First World War poem 'For the Fallen'.