The Role of Religion in Thomas Hardy's Poem Channel Firing
"Channel Firing" by Thomas Hardy is a poem about the atrocities of war. Published shortly before the beginning of World War I, the poem seems almost prophetic. It not only decries the barbaric nature of war--an institution so vile and obnoxious that in this poem it awakens the dead--but also questions our inability to break our addiction to that institution. Less clear, however, is the answer to a question Hardy seems to be posing: is it our plight to be perpetually engaged in quests for power and vengeance, rendering us unworthy of God's call to judgment, or is it our plight that a sneering, uncaring god forsakes us in our time of need?
The religious implications of this poem are more difficult to analyze than the political and social implications because they are more subtle. Throughout the poem both God and the awakened skeletons seem to be in agreement that men are guilty of perpetuating war. Men are "striving strong to make / Red war yet redder. / Mad as hatters / They do no more for Christes sake / Than you who are helpless in such matters" (13-16). As men strive to make their nations more efficient as war machines, they do Christ no more honor than those who are already dead.
God says that "you are men, / And rest eternal sorely need" (23-24) and assures that it is a good thing for some that it is not judgement hour, "For if it were they'd have to scour / Hell's floor for so much theatening" (19-20). The skeletons wonder...