The Man He Killed Poem by Thomas Hardy

The Man He Killed

Rating: 3.9

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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28 90 Reply
Abid Khokhar 18 March 2007

The poem 'The Man He Killed' is though classical in setting but light in presentation having rhyming scheme abab recurring all the five stanzas in it. It shows mastry of the poet in handling the theme in mature poetical style. Though obtrusive in mood, the poet has beautifully expressed his contemplative theme into comprehendible imagery and tangible setting. In the first stanza, He romantically yearns about his imagined childhood when he would have been enjoying liberties of life with the man whom he killed and he uses anologies of wetting, nipperkin to show the franksness in tone and meanings. Here the poet uses symbol of 'ancient inn' that stands both for childhood and the age where there was no sophisory. In the second stanza, he tells us about killing the enemies in millitry operations, wars, battles etc without caring the opposite man as man but just an enemy in the enemy nfantry, In the third stanza, he give the reason of killing the man in opposite regiment because he was his foe. The remarks: 'That's clear enough; although' is interestingly tinged with socratic irony. In the fourth stanza, the poet says that my foe(who was not his foe at all) would also have been rationalizing the same situation but, in wars, we have to set aside all such sort of emotions and kill the man in front for some other reason. In the last stanza, the poet tries to summarize his philosophy for killing the other man who does have the same blood and flesh like we do have. He remorsefully says that wars are strange-quaint and curious. (Aliteation of k'-sound' adds beauty to the compound adjective) . We shoot down the people who might have been our kins and whom we would have served, shared, hosted in some inn if otherwise not in war. The last line obliquely impraginates the real purpose of killing that man -'to help half a crown'. In this line, or is inserted as a weak proposition but this is poetic worth of this line that the weaker argument in the end is the soul of this poem. To the poet, the man whom he killed as an enemy, could have been his chum when he was just a kid. In war and war exploits, politics and politicking, we don't care about the life, security and livlihood of others as human beings but just do have our own axe to grind. The poet is going to expose the very fabric of selfishness for the mundane transitory benifs of life at the expence of the life of others however sanctimonious it may be. We do it to sustain the order of our governments. Our governents are shouldered half by administrationa and managent and half by military men. The poet's obstrusive mood helps us understand violence, treachry and autocracy on one hand lets us subject to spirit of resignation. It is something else if he is justified in his approach or not. Judiciously speaking, if there is weaker defence, fragile boundry, or simple humanistic outlook towards life, no house nor any polity can exist on this globe. Many a poets, philosophers and socio political thinkers have lifted their pens on this topic, but all of their observations are referential. Whe we talk about absolute, permanant and all pervasive peace, we must have to knit about the social order of the same level where there would have been no injustice, no indiscrimination, no trachery.... and for this we have to adopt the same level of socio-political philosophy.

58 21 Reply
Ahmed Ali 09 April 2007

Thomas Hardy composed The Man He Killed, a poem demonstrating the effect war has upon soldiers and how war changes friend into a foe. The informal diction used by Hardy adds to the general meaning and impact of the poem. Idiom, specific and concrete words, and rhyming are all combined to form the diction of the poem, which enhance the impact and focus of the ideas and emotions.

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Michael Ryland 09 April 2015

Reading this poem, the US Civil War comes to mind. There were so many instances of friend fighting and brother fighting brother. I also see the utter futility of war. Hardy tells us that, without a war, these two could have met at an inn and shared a drink. When our response to disagreement is violence, nothing is resolved. There is only death, destruction and aftermath.

10 12 Reply
JoJoSiwa 06 June 2019

dIsLiKe ThIs CoMmEnT

1 1 Reply

Make sure you dislike

0 0
Karen Crider 22 February 2018

This poem carries the weight of truth from the weight of war. Something many can identify with. I like how he breaks his phrases with dashes, as if trying to explain/justify killing someone he might have enjoyed. War is what justifies it, but it's another matter to condone it.

2 2 Reply
Manonton Dalan 07 December 2015

rule of the west......

3 16 Reply
Douglas Scotney 14 September 2015

as if he's more or less than a man when he goes to war

4 14 Reply
Kim Barney 14 September 2015

The tragedy and futility of war, having to shoot at (and in this case kill) someone who could otherwise have been a friend. Heartbreaking.

5 9 Reply
Thomas Hardy

Thomas Hardy

Dorchester / England
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