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Last Updated on August 5, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 535

That night your great guns, unawares,
Shook all our coffins as we lay
In these opening lines, the dead address the living, setting a light-hearted tone for a poem on a serious theme: a condemnation of warfare.
And sat upright. While drearisome
Arose the howl of wakened hounds
"We sat upright" is an allusion to the old cliche of noises so loud they "wake the dead." There's a vein of grim humor in the sound of guns so powerful even the dead are startled into thinking Judgment Day has arrived. The bleakness is underscored by the imagery of hounds howling in the night in response to the firing guns.
All nations striving strong to make
Red war yet redder. Mad as hatters
They do no more for Christés sake
Than you who are helpless in such matters.

God speaks to the dead in their coffins in the quote above to reassure them that the noises have nothing to do with heaven or spiritual matters. In a stanza that gets to the heart of the poem, God disavows any part in warfare, showing that evoking his name in support of one country's military cause is a lie. He says quite unequivocally that this war preparation has nothing at all to do with Christ.

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The sing-song, almost nursery-rhyme-quality of the end rhymes—"make" and "sake" and "hatters" and "matters"—are at odds with the serious nature of what God is declaring. The simple language, however, makes it completely clear that it is insane to make war "redder"(more bloody) than it is. It is both "mad" and un-Christian. Hardy also evokes the highest authority he can come up with—God—to make this statement. Hardy is trying, in this poem, to urge people to come to their senses and think about what they are doing.

That this is not the judgment-hour
For some of them's a blessed thing
God goes on to reinforce his point about war and violence not being part of his kingdom by telling the skeletons it is lucky ("blessed") for some of the living that it is not Judgment Day, for they will have much to answer for with their warmongering.
I wish I had stuck to pipes and beer.
Parson Thirdly says this to the other skeletons. This is another bleak instance of humor, as the Parson, listening to guns loud enough to wake the dead, realizes he might as well have enjoyed himself for all the good his preaching about the Prince of Peace and brotherly love did for anyone in maintaining peace.
Again the guns disturbed the hour,
Roaring their readiness to avenge,
As far inland as Stourton Tower,
And Camelot, and starlit Stonehenge.
This final stanza is ambiguous; it evokes places from Britain's past that are associated with violence. Stourton Tower was built to commemorate the end of the Seven Years' War in the eighteenth century, but it also evokes the far-distant past of King Alfred's 878 Battle of Edington. While it alludes to warfare—King Arthur united Britain through fighting and Stonehenge is hypothesized to have been the site of human sacrifices—the stanza also alludes to a romantic ("starlit") British culture and history that war could destroy.

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