by Alice Quinn
“The Man He Killed” by Thomas Hardy:
“Had he and I but met
By some old ancient inn,
We should have sat 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.”
(From War Poems, selected and edited by John Hollander © by John Hollander 1999. Used by permission of Everyman Library. Photo of American marines ready to fire at the enemy in the trenches, Breuvannes-en-Bassigny, France, 1918, via Wikimedia Commons)