Thomas Hardy’s ‘The Man He Killed’ (1902) was published in Time’s Laughingstocks (1909):
“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.”
What is this poem about? What poetic and rhetorical techniques does Hardy use? What do we learn about the character and origins of the speaker? Is “old ancient” a pleonasm? What is the significance of “nipperkin”? Does “war is” rhyme with “bar is”?