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By Thomas Hardy

That night your great guns, unawares,

Shook all our coffins as we lay,

And broke the chancel window-squares,

We thought it was the Judgment-day


And sat upright. While drearisome

Arose the howl of wakened hounds:

The mouse let fall the altar-crumb,

The worms drew back into the mounds,


The glebe cow drooled. Till God called, “No;

It’s gunnery practice out at sea

Just as before you went below;

The world is as it used to be:


“All nations striving strong to make

Red war yet redder. Mad as hatters

They do no more for Christés sake

Than you who are helpless in such matters.


“That this is not the judgment-hour

For some of them’s a blessed thing,

For if it were they’d have to scour

Hell’s floor for so much threatening….


“Ha, ha. It will be warmer when

I blow the trumpet (if indeed

I ever do; for you are men,

And rest eternal sorely need).”


So down we lay again. “I wonder,

Will the world ever saner be,”

Said one, “than when He sent us under

In our indifferent century!”


And many a skeleton shook his head.

“Instead of preaching forty year,”

My neighbour Parson Thirdly said,

“I wish I had stuck to pipes and beer.”


Again the guns disturbed the hour,

Roaring their readiness to avenge,

As far inland as Stourton Tower,

And Camelot, and starlit Stonehenge.


Poetry Out Loud Note: This poem is mistakenly listed as pre- 20th century, however for the 2015 competition, it may be used to fulfill the pre- 20th century requirement.

Source: The Complete Poems (2001)

  • Arts & Sciences
  • Living
  • Religion

Poet Bio

Thomas Hardy
Thomas Hardy was born in Dorset County, England, where he studied architecture, but he later quit to pursue a literary career. In order to gain financial stability, Hardy first published novels, including such classics as Tess of the D’Urbervilles and Jude the Obscure. Once he was well known and well off financially, he returned to poetry, his first love. Hardy’s dark, bleak verse was at odds with his Victorian contemporaries who tended to present more optimistic perspectives on life.

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