Published: Sat 07 Dec 2013

The Man he Killed by Thomas Hardy

Thomas Hardy, one of the better ones, in a long line of great poets.

I remember first reading Thomas Hardy's poem "The Man he Killed" in school during my Junior Cert. years and thinking how great it was - how unusual that two enemies on a battlefield were only enemies because someone said so. How two enemies had no other reason to fight each other than than the whims and wishes, follies and vanities of others. It also reminds me of the wonder I felt upon hearing of the World War One soldiers coming out of the trenches to to sing at Christmas time, captured beautifully in Siegfried Sassoon's "Everyone Sang". More than twenty years later, it has not lost its power for me.

If only we spent more time treating each other to half a crown, a pint in a bar, or a casual smileĀ  - how closer might we be to happiness.

Thomas Hardy - The Man he Killed

Had he and I but met
By some old ancient inn,
We should have set us down to wet
Right many a nipperkin!

But ranged as infantry,
And staring face to face,
I shot at him as he at me,
And killed him in his place.

I shot him dead because--
Because he was my foe,
Just so: my foe of course he was;
That's clear enough; although

He thought he'd 'list, perhaps,
Off-hand like--just as I--
Was out of work--had sold his traps--
No other reason why.

Yes; quaint and curious war is!
You shoot a fellow down
You'd treat, if met where any bar is,
Or help to half a crown.

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