Three times this year, the Guardian has made a common but egregious error. Three times it has misquoted the text of Laurence Binyon’s elegy in Poems for the Fallen. And three times Chris Hall has pointed this out.
The first time the paper printed a correction. The second time it ignored him. The third time (10 December) it corrected the online version but failed to print a correction in the paper.
It is a pity that Geoffrey Wheatcroft, in his concern for the dead of two world wars,misquoted Laurence Binyon’s elegy in Poems for the Fallen (‘The Myth of the good war’, 9 December). Binyon did not write that they shall not grow old as we that are left grow old …’. He wrote ‘they shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old …’ (my emphasis).
This is no trivial or pedantic difference. The halting rhythm of Binyon’s line is more wrenching than Wheatcroft’s version and the meaning is significantly different: ‘they shall not grow old’ is a truism, but Binyon’s words envisage the dead continuing to grow but ‘not old’—for as long as we remember them.
Chris wonders whether the Guardian will go on making this mistake until the anniversary of the Armistice in November 2018.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning, the Guardian should remember to get the words the right way round.