Thomas Hardy's “Channel Firing” is a poem written in 1914, four months prior to the start of World War 1. This historical context is crucial to understanding the poem as it expresses the dark and sorrowful foreshadowing of the months before the war, creating feelings of tension, turmoil and unrest. There were, at the time, many young men who did not share the common unease, more so tension turned to excitement, turmoil to eagerness and unrest to anticipation. The split between society in the months leading up to the war is portrayed in Hardy's poem. For example, the anonymous character Hardy embodies in this poem states how he “thought it was judgement day” as he hears gunfire, quite clearly depicting his fear and others around him as he uses the collective term, “we”. The “howl of wakened hounds” could also be used to describe the fear and tension of society as we are presented with a somewhat evil and malevolent image of howling hounds, hardly an image to inspire joy or happiness. In contrast to the aforementioned points, the excitement and anticipation of some young men at the time could be portrayed through the use of the quote “All nations striving strong to make Red war yet redder”. This quote could perhaps be interpreted to show the bloodthirsty nature of man, not seeking to win freedom but showing how eager each nation was to annihilate another.
The poem tells a story of how numerous deceased, perhaps those killed in war, are awoken from the dead by the sound of gunfire on the British Channel. The use of the phrase “Judgement Day” holds both religious allusions and may also hold reference to how they believe they have been taken back to the day they died. The quote “The mouse let fall the altar-crumb” could possibly allude to the mouse, as a rodent, being a symbol of death and decay. Coupled with a place of religious worship, this produces more interpretations. Perhaps it signifies that man fights and dies in God's name, it may be that, with reference...
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