The Man He Killed – Speciality Speech #4
Throughout the UK communities gathered on 32 beaches as part of Pages of the Sea to say a collective thank you and goodbye to the millions who left our shores during the Great War. Too many never returned. 32 portraits were created each commemorating an individual of the time.
One such portrait was created on the Beach of Weymouth. It was incredibly moving to watch it coming to life and how many created their own image attaching poppies of remembrance.
The readings were superb and well worth the wait in the bitter winter wind. One was this reading to music of Hardy’s The Man He Killed by Billy Bragg.
It took me back to 2014 when I, too, read the poem as part of a literary evening at Thomas Hardy’s Dorset home, Max Gate. It was one of three that I compared and contrasted as part of the project. The other two were Drummer Hodge, and Channel Firing. This is the one that had the biggest effect on me.
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.”