Robert Laurence Binyon (10 August 1869 at Lancaster – 10 March 1943 at Reading, Berkshire) was an English poet, dramatist, and art scholar. His most famous work, For the Fallen, is well known for being used in Remembrance Sunday 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 railroad company of London and Birmingham. The family were Quakers. 
Binyon studied at St Paul's School. Then, he attended Trinity College, Oxford, into the Classics career (Honour Moderations in 1890, Literae Humaniores in 1892) , and so he was already writing poetry by 1891, winning the Newdigate Prize for one poem whilst still at Oxford.
Right after his graduation, in 1893 Binyon started working for the Department of Printed Books of the British Museum. Already, he was writing catalogs for the museum and art monographs, and in 1895 his first book, Dutch Etchers of the Seventeenth Century, was published. In that same year, Binyon was employed into the Museum's Department of Prints and Drawings, under Campbell Dodgson. 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. Many of his books produced while at the Museum were influenced by his sensibilities as a poet, although some are works of plain scholarship - such as his four-volume catalogue of all the Museum's English drawings.
In 1904 he married historian Cicely Margaret Powell, and the couple had three daughters. By those years, Binyon belonged to a circle of artists, as a regular patron of the Wiener Cafe of London. His fellow intellectuals there were Sir William Rothenstein, Walter Sickert, Charles Ricketts, Lucien Pissarro, and Edmund Dulac.
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, as he was visiting the cliffs of northern Cornwall (where a plaque commemorates it nowadays.) The piece was published by The Times newspaper in September, when public feeling was affected by the recent Battle of Marne.
Today Binyon is most famous for For the Fallen, often recited at Remembrance Sunday services in the UK, and an integral part of Anzac Day services in Australia and New Zealand, and November 11 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.
In 1915, despite being too old to enlist in the First World War, Laurence Binyon volunteered at a British hospital for French soldiers, Hopital 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.
After the war, he returned to the British Museum and wrote numerous books on art; in particular on William Blake, Persian art, and Japanese art. His work on ancient Japanese & Chinese cultures offered strongly contextualised examples that inspired, among others, the poets Ezra Pound and W.B. Yeats. His work on Blake and his followers kept alive the then nearly-forgotten memory of the work of Samuel Palmer. Binyon's duality of interests continued the traditional interest of British visionary Romanticism 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 (where his daughters also came to live during the Second World War). He continued further writing poetry.
In 1933-1934, Binyon was appointed Norton 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 in Oxford on Art and Freedom, and in 1940 he was appointed the Byron Professor of English Literature at University of Athens. 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 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, whom Binyon employed at the British Museum. Binyon also introduced Robert Frost to the young Robert Bridges.
Between 1933 and 1943, Binyon published an acclaimed translation of Dante's Divina commedia in an English version of terza rima. At his death he was also working on a major three-part Arthurian trilogy; the first part of which was published after his death as The Madness of Merlin (1947).
There is a slate memorial at Aldworth, St. Mary's Church, where Binyon's ashes were scattered after death. On November 11, 1985, Binyon was among 16 Great War poets commemorated on a slate stone unveiled in Westminster Abbey's Poet's Corner. The inscription on the stone was written by a fellow Great War poet, Wilfred Owen. It reads: "My subject is War, and the pity of War. The Poetry is in the pity."
His three daughters Helen, Margaret and Nicolete became artists. Helen Binyon (1904–1979) studied with Paul Nash and Eric Ravilious, illustrating many books for the Oxford University Press, 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. Nicholete, as Nicolete Gray, was a distinguished calligrapher and art scholar.
Edward Elgar 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).
(Most of the above were written for John Masefield's theatre).
Robert Laurence Binyon, CH (August 10, 1869 – March 10, 1943) was an English poet. He was a Quaker and a pacifist who worked during the First World War as a medical orderly with the Red Cross on the Western Front. He is mainly known for his poem "For the Fallen," which is quoted on many war memorials.