Today is Remembrance Sunday. I am moved by it, always. I make a point of sitting down and reading war poetry, and trying not to cry too much. I keep coming back to that passage in Cymbeline – a middling and muddled late Shakespeare play which I love primarily for inventing the name Imogen, and for giving us this, the most achingly beautiful expression of loss I know. It resonates with me on a day like today.
Fear no more the heat o’ the sun,
Nor the furious winter’s rages;
Thou thy worldly task hast done,
Home art gone, and ta’en thy wages.
Golden lads and girls all must,
As chimney-sweepers, come to dust.
No exorciser harm thee!
Nor no witchcraft charm thee!
Ghost unlaid forbear thee!
Nothing ill come near thee!
Quiet consummation have;
And renowned be thy grave!
Here’s what Shakespeare wanted us to know: everything ends. But we need not fear our endings, however they come about. We are wrapped in the memories of those we leave behind, and what we find there is quietness, and sacredness, and rest.
Rest is what I’d give them, these men and women who fought our battles. Rest, and my remembrance; for those who came home to bear their burdens, and those who left their winter’s rages behind, out there in the lonely fields.