Drummer Hodge' by Thomas Hardy
Drummers were usually the very youngest of soldiers and were
considered to be too young to fight. This instantly sets a very sombre
tone as the reader realises the soldier was very young when he died.
The word 'Hodge' is used to describe him and was once used as a
derogatory term for a farm labourer however Hardy means no disrespect
as he has openly showed his admiration for countrymen. This term is
merely one of many techniques used to emphasis how foreign the Drummer
'A Dead Boche' by Robert Graves describes an encounter with a dead
"Boche"; the word boche was an offensive term for a German. These two
poems are instantly different as one is written about a fellow
Englishman whilst the other is written about an enemy.
The first stanza in 'Drummer Hodge' shows the horror of the soldier's
death and burial in a strange land:
"They throw in Drummer Hodge, to rest
Uncoffined - just as found
His landmark is a kopje-crest"
The word "throw" shows how disrespectful Hodge's burial is, he is not
lowered with dignity or given a proper military burial as he should be
entitled to. He is not even placed in a coffin and is buried "just as
found" making him sound more like an object than a person. The
Afrikaans words "kopje-crest" and "veldt" emphasise the foreignness of
Hodge's resting place, which is also highlighted again by the
reference to the "foreign constellations" that will rise nightly over
his grave. Graves' poem contrasts with this as it focuses more on how
the German visually looks and doesn't evoke the emotional feeling that
is brought about by the alienation in Hardy's poem. Graves' poem
expresses a very negative and cynical feeling about the war in
contrast to Hardy's pensive views. The poem 'A Dead Boche' sounds
almost funny as Graves sets it up in a similar style to a limerick. He
directs the reader personally with the use of the personal pronoun
"you" and address himself as "I" creating a very informal atmosphere.
However like 'Drummer Hodge', the dead German has just been left in a
foreign country without a proper burial and goodbye.
The contrast between the soldier and his strange resting place is
prominent in the second stanza. Hardy again uses the Afrikaans term
"Karoo" and the imagery of the harsh and dry bush land. The repetition
of the image of dust and ground is a reference to the burial the
Drummer should have received it also acts as a bigger metaphor for
growth and fertility. Hardy also uses the foreign stars to highlight
Hodge's alien grave, Hodge would have seen the constellations before
his death but too rarely for him to know them.
"Yet a portion of that unknown plain
Will Hodge for ever be;"
Hodge remains un-heroic throughout the poem and dies "unknown".
However, despite his ignorance of the...