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)
More By This Poet
The Last Performance
“I am playing my oldest tunes,” declared she,
“All the old tunes I know,—
Those I learnt ever so long ago.”
—Why she should think just then she’d play them
Silence cloaks like snow.
When I returned from the town at nightfall
The Convergence of the Twain
In a solitude of the sea
Deep from human vanity,
And the Pride of Life that planned her, stilly couches she.
Steel chambers, late the pyres
Of her salamandrine fires,
Cold currents thrid, and turn to rhythmic tidal lyres.
Over the mirrors meant
To glass the opulent
More Poems about Arts & Sciences
Sestina in Prose
It was like climbing a mountain to those of us who’d climbed one. To the others, it was like, I suppose, something else. In other words, we let everybody find her own figure of speech.
Not that it—speech—lay thick on the...
The Heart Shows No Signs
The heart, the surgeon says, does not reveal
the small rifts, the hairline cracks which
split the hairline cracks they conceal cops
and robbers in a stretch of skin flaunting
star-scars with show of blood bone
the ledges of what it holds tight in checkmate
More Poems about Living
We gathered in a field southwest of town,
several hundred hauling coolers
and folding chairs along a gravel road
dry in August, two ruts of soft dust
that soaked into our clothes
and rose in plumes behind us.
By noon we could discern their massive coils
How to Triumph Like a Girl
I like the lady horses best,
how they make it all look easy,
like running 40 miles per hour
is as fun as taking a nap, or grass.
I like their lady horse swagger,
after winning. Ears up, girls, ears up!
But mainly, let’s be honest,...
More Poems about Religion
I fear dispersal but the resounding really sounds may be full of echo
or echolocation for the next round
Eye rowed in the guest book of God my many sacred tongues
body and bow
Fingers spell now all the spaces I open
You now verse...
Dead Men Walking
What did they desire, the dead who had returned?
The sons who had inherited their estates
pretended not to know them. The iron gates
were welded shut, but soon the dead had learned
to hire lawyers practiced in the laws
that bound the afterlife to...