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Extended commentary of 'Drummer Hodge' by Thomas Hardy

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Introduction

´╗┐Drummer Hodge AN ELEGY On the Title: Hardy allows no perceptive comments to be made about the title ? rather a bland one, merely giving the name (noticeably in terms of his military rank) of an individual. It should be noted, however, that the original title was ?The Dead Drummer Boy?. I suspect that Hardy changed it to add more emphasis to the ?reader?s discovery? ? of the fact that Hodge is dead, that is ? in the first stanza. Themes: Death, Distance, Foreign Landscape, the Tragedy of War. Overall Structure: Three stanzas of six lines (regular) with an alternate rhyme scheme. As with ?I Look Into My Glass?, the rhyme scheme adds to the concentrated nature of the poem. There also exists a ?classical? feel provided by the Roman numerals used to mark each stanza. All in all, it is a very ?tidy? and reverential structure; it is as if Hardy is paying his own tribute to the otherwise unlamented Hodge, treating him as with the deference that was, as the reader soon discovers, lacking from his burial. ...read more.

Middle

Also note the following: ?And foreign constellations west/ Each night above his mound.? Star imagery is used anaphronically last two lines of each stanza ? this being the introduction. Note use of ?west?. Is it a verb ? ie; throughout the night, the stars appear to move in a westerly direction. Equally, it has been argued that the poem takes a balladic form. However, observe the polysyndeton, which increases the length of each stanza and such a conclusion seems less appealing. A ballad should be made up of quatrains (and probably tell a story!). In any case, Hardy does use a Ballad-esque form. Second Stanza Notes: ?Young Hodge the Drummer never knew ?/ Fresh from his Wessex home ?/ The meaning of the broad Karoo,/ The Bush, the dusty loam,/ There is some mortal irony that Hodge gave his life for a country and cause of which he was largely ignorant. Hardy here makes constant reference to Hodge's lack of knowledge - the name Hodge is synonymous with country yokels. The boy, with his youth emphasized by the placement of the word ?young? at the start of the stanza, was from Wessex ? not South Africa. ...read more.

Conclusion

The poem is an existentialist paradox - Hodge was an unimportant figure in a major war, but becomes a vital part of something that will last far longer than any human conflict. On another point, note the juxtaposition of ?Northern? and ?Southern? in this stanza. Hardy invites a final sense of comparison, whilst also creating a unity in terms of meaning. This final sense of home, which contrasts with the initial sense of rejection, is shared in the final lines of ?star imagery?. ?And strange-eyed constellations reign/ His stars eternally.? There is a deep sense of belonging and protection suggested in the poem?s final lines; ?strange-eyed? reinforces this; i.e; the stars watch his mound reverentially, however foreign they may seem. Indeed, the ?royal? or perhaps ?deified? nature of the constellations allows this to become a very powerful image, further aided by the use of enjambment. Hardy ends his poem by turning such a grand image back to Hodge. They are his stars eternally ? Hodge will never be a hero among men, but he is elevated to a divine level through the Southern landscape that harbours him as something precious. The use of ?eternally? is a grand sweep of time upon which to conclude and, in my opinion, a fitting one too. ...read more.

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