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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.

by this poet

poem
That night your great guns, unawares,
Shook all our coffins as we lay,
And broke the chancel window-squares,
We thought it was the Judgement-day

And sat upright. While drearisome
Arose the howl of wakened hounds:
The mouse let fall the altar-crumb,
The worm drew back into the mounds,

The glebe cow drooled.
poem

I

They throw in Drummer Hodge, to rest
     Uncoffined—just as found:
His landmark is a kopje-crest
     That breaks the veldt around;
And foreign constellations west
     Each night above his mound.
 

II

Young Hodge the Drummer never knew—
     Fresh from his

poem
I

A shaded lamp and a waving blind,
And the beat of a clock from a distant floor:
On this scene enter—winged, horned, and spined—
A longlegs, a moth, and a dumbledore;
While 'mid my page there idly stands
A sleepy fly, that rubs its hands...

II

Thus meet we five, in this still place,
At this