Thomas Hardy: The Pity of It

April 1915
I walked in loamy Wessex lanes, afar
From rail-track and from highway, and I heard
In field and farmstead many an ancient word
Of local lineage like ‘Thu bist,’ ‘Er war,’ 
‘Ich woll’, ‘Er sholl’, and by-talk similar,
Nigh as they speak who in this month’s moon gird
At England’s very loins, thereunto spurred
By gangs whose glory threats and slaughters are.
Then seemed a Heart crying: ‘Whosoever they be
At root and bottom of this, who flung this flame
Between kin folk kin tongued even as are we,
‘Sinister, ugly, lurid, be their fame;
May their familiars grow to shun their name,
And their brood perish everlastingly.’

Saxons Fighting Saxons

The War threw up as many questions about national identies as it (originally) attempted to answer. On the Western Front, for example, Saxon Regiments of the German army faced men from the old Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England (Essex, Sussex, and Wessex). This confusion was highlighted by Thomas Hardy, the quintessential Englishman in his poem ‘The Pity Of It’ published in April, 1915 …


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