He is best known for the poem "For the Fallen", first published in the Times in September, 1914. The seven-verse poem honoured the World War I English war dead of that time and in particular the British Expeditionary Force, which had by then already had high casualty rates on the developing Western Front. The fourth verse from that poem has gained an existence of its own and is known today as "The Ode" - one that applies to all war casualties:
"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".
"The Ode" is still regularly recited on occasions such as ANZAC day in Australia and Remembrance Day in Canada, and adorns numerous war memorials. In Australia's Retired Servicemen's Leagues, it is read out nightly at 6 p.m.
Binyon was born in Lancaster, England. Educated at Trinity College, Oxford, he was already writing poetry by 1890, and won the Newdigate Prize for one poem whilst still at Oxford. After graduation, he worked as a curator in the Oriental Department of the British Museum. Although too old to enlist, he went to the Western Front in 1916 to work for the Red Cross as a medical orderly. After the war, he returned to the museum, and wrote several books on art, in particular Oriental art. In 1933, he was appointed Norton professor of poetry at Harvard.