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Conflict (Edexcel Poetry Anthology)

4. Thomas Hardy, The Man He Killed (1902)

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About this Lecture


In this module, we read through Thomas Hardy’s ‘The Man He Killed’, focusing in particular on: (i) the idea of the twentieth century as the century of almost non-stop international war; (ii) the balance of innocence and experience; and (iii) the concept of the ‘pity of war’.


In this course, Professor John McRae (University of Nottingham) explores the fifteen poems that make up the ‘Conflict’ cluster for GCSE English Literature (Edexcel). Each poem is read in full, with a short commentary highlighting aspects of language, style, themes, motif, and so on. In the case of Blake’s ‘A Poison Tree’, for example, we think about the concepts of innocence and experience and the symbolism of the apple. When we come to Byron’s ‘The Destruction of Sennacherib’, we focus on the figure of Sennacherib and the rhythm of the poem. And so on for the rest of the collection.

The poems discussed in this course are:
1. William Blake, A Poison Tree (1794)
2. Lord Byron, The Destruction of Sennacherib (1815)
3. William Wordsworth, The Prelude: Stealing the Boat (1798-1850)
4. Thomas Hardy, The Man He Killed (1902)
5. Christina Rossetti, Cousin Kate (1862)
6. John Agard, Half-Caste (2005)
7. Wilfred Owen, Exposure (1917)
8. Alfred Lord Tennyson, The Charge of the Light Brigade (1854)
9. Gillian Clarke, Catrin (1978)
10. Carole Satyamurti, War Photographer (1987)
11. Ciaran Carson, Belfast Confetti (1989)
12. Mary Casey, The Class Game (1979)
13. Jane Weir, Poppies (2009)
14. Benjamin Zephaniah, No Problem (1996)
15. Denise Levertov, What Were They Like? (1967)


John McRae is Special Professor of Language in Literature Studies and Teaching Associate in the School of English at Nottingham University, and holds Visiting Professorships in China, Malaysia, Spain and the USA. He is co-author of The Routledge History of Literature in English with Ron Carter, and also wrote The Language of Poetry, Literature with a Small 'l' and the first critical edition of Teleny by Oscar Wilde and others.

Cite this Lecture

APA style

McRae, J. (2019, March 06). Conflict (Edexcel Poetry Anthology) - Thomas Hardy, The Man He Killed (1902) [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

McRae, J. "Conflict (Edexcel Poetry Anthology) – Thomas Hardy, The Man He Killed (1902)." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 06 Mar 2019,

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