Poem introduction

'In Time of 'The Breaking of Nations'' is Hardy’s elegy on the First World War, written in 1915. He takes his title from the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah in the Bible: ‘Thou art my battle axe and weapons of war: for with thee will I break in pieces the nations, and with thee will I destroy kingdoms’. What Hardy sees is the continuity of life and love even through violent times.

In Time of 'The Breaking of Nations'

Only a man harrowing clods
In a slow silent walk
With an old horse that stumbles and nods
Half asleep as they stalk

Only thin smoke without flame
From the heaps of couch-grass;
Yet this will go onward the same
Though Dynasties pass.

Yonder a maid and her wight
Come whispering by:
War's annals will cloud into night
Ere their story die.


Thomas Hardy

Thomas Hardy read by Anthony Thwaite

1The Man He Killed


2Drummer Hodge


3The Ruined Maid


4The Voice


5The Darkling Thrush


6In Time of the Breaking of Nations