Thomas Hardy: All-Earth-gladdening Law of Peace, war’s apology wholly stultified
A Christmas Ghost Story (1899)
South of the Line, inland from far Durban,
A mouldering soldier lies–your countryman.
Awry and doubled up are his gray bones,
And on the breeze his puzzled phantom moans
Nightly to clear Canopus: “I would know
By whom and when the All-Earth-gladdening Law
Of Peace, brought in by that Man Crucified,
Was ruled to be inept, and set aside?
And what of logic or of truth appears
In tacking ‘Anno Domini’ to the years?
Near twenty-hundred livened thus have hied,
But tarries yet the Cause for which He died.”
‘Peace upon earth!’ was said. We sing it,
And pay a million priests to bring it.
After two thousand years of mass
We’ve got as far as poison-gas.
In Time of ‘The Breaking of Nations’ (1915)
Only a man harrowing clods
In a slow silent walk
With an old horse that stumbles and nods
Half asleep as they stalk.
Only thin smoke without flame
From the heaps of couch-grass;
Yet this will go onward the same
Though Dynasties pass.
Yonder a maid and her wight
Come whispering by:
War’s annals will cloud into night
Ere their story die.
Often When Warring (1915)
Often when warring for he wist not what,
An enemy-soldier, passing by one weak,
Has tendered water, wiped the burning cheek,
And cooled the lips so black and clammed and hot;
Then gone his way, and maybe quite forgot
The deed of grace amid the roar and reek;
Yet larger vision than loud arms bespeak
He there has reached, although he has known it not.
For natural mindsight, triumphing in the act
Over the throes of artificial rage,
Has thuswise muffled victory’s peal of pride,
Rended to ribands policy’s specious page
That deals but with evasion, code, and pact,
And war’s apology wholly stultified.