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About this Poem 

“Before Marching, and After” was published in Selected Poems of Thomas Hardy (Macmillan, 1916).

Before Marching, and After

(In Memoriam F. W. G.)

     Orion swung southward aslant
     Where the starved Egdon pine-trees had thinned,
     The Pleiads aloft seemed to pant
     With the heather that twitched in the wind;
But he looked on indifferent to sights such as these,
Unswayed by love, friendship, home joy or home sorrow,
And wondered to what he would march on the morrow.

     The crazed household clock with its whirr
     Rang midnight within as he stood,
     He heard the low sighing of her
     Who had striven from his birth for his good;
But he still only asked the spring starlight, the breeze,
What great thing or small thing his history would borrow
From that Game with Death he would play on the morrow.

     When the heath wore the robe of late summer,
     And the fuchsia-bells, hot in the sun,
     Hung red by the door, a quick comer
     Brought tidings that marching was done
For him who had joined in that game overseas
Where Death stood to win; though his memory would borrow
A brightness therefrom not to die on the morrow.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on May 27, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on May 27, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Thomas Hardy

Thomas Hardy

Thomas Hardy, whose books include Tess of the d'Urbervilles and Jude the Obscure, was one of the most influentual novelists and poets of England's Victorian era. He died on January 11, 1928.

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This after-sunset is a sight for seeing,
Cliff-heads of craggy cloud surrounding it.
     —And dwell you in that glory-show?
You may; for there are strange strange things in being,
            Stranger than I know.

Yet if that chasm of splendour claim your presence
Which glows between

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A Woman was playing,
    A man looking on;
    And the mould of her face,
    And her neck, and her hair,
    Which the rays fell upon
    Of the two candles there,
Sent him mentally straying
    In some fancy-place
    Where pain had no trace.
A cowled Apparition

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   "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