'The Sniper' - Approaching Unseen Poetry

In this recording we tackle a First World War poem that neither of us had read before, entitled ‘The Sniper’. In doing so, we hope to model ways of tackling unseen poetry. Towards the end of the recording, we then make some tentative links to some of the ‘Conflict’ poems in the OCR anthology. You can download a copy of the poem to study and annotate here.

The Sniper

Two hundred yards away he saw his head;

He raised his rifle, took quick aim and shot him.

Two hundred yards away the man dropped dead;

With bright exulting eye he turned and said,

“By Jove, I got him!” 5

And he was jubilant; had he not won

The meed of praise his comrades haste to pay?

He smiled; he could not see what he had done;

The dead man lay two hundred yards away.

He could not see the dead, reproachful eyes, 10

The youthful face which Death had not defiled

But had transfigured when he claimed his prize.

Had he not seen this perhaps he had not smiled.

He could not see the woman as she wept

To hear the news two hundred miles away, 15

Or though his every dream she would have crept.

And into all his thoughts by night and day.

Two hundred yards away, and bending o’er

A body in a trench, rough men proclaim

Sadly, that Fritz, the merry, is no more. 20

(Or shall we call him Jack? It’s all the same.)

W.D. Cocker (1882-1970)