War and the Muses - Thomas Hardy’s “The Man he Killed”
The author of such enduring novels as Far From the Madding Crowd (1874), The Return of the Native (1878), The Mayor of Casterbridge (1886), and Tess of the D’Urbervilles (1891), Thomas Hardy (1840-1925) was also
a poet of some power, as can be seen in “The Man he Killed.”
Originally published in the anthology Time’s Laughingstocks and Other Verses (1909), “The Man he Killed”
addresses a question that soldiers sometimes, in their old age, reminisce
“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.