Pre-1914 War Poetry
War is such a popular theme for poetry due to extremely different views on it, and how people can show their feelings about it through it. War is seen as brave, naïve, brutal, necessary, chivalrous, and wasteful by different people.
The Drum is a strong anti war poem written by John Scott, a vicar. The drum focuses on the lure of war, how the ‘drum’s discordant sound’ entices ‘thoughtless youths’ from ‘cities and from fields’. It focuses on the cheap, spoils of war, the ignorance of the young men, the terrible destruction it can cause, and the most of all maintains a sense of hatred of the drum, and how it (metaphorically) caused all of this.
The Drum begins with ‘I hate that drum’s discordant sound, / Parading round and round and round.’ Without a hint of ambiguity, the hatred for the drum is shown (‘I hate’) and by the word discordant. Discordant has 2 meanings, something disagreeable or incompatible, and in a more musical form, an unpleasant collection of harsh, clashing notes which are out of tune. The discordance is the fact that it is making war appealing, a more metaphorical sense than the usually in tune, and relentless (as is shown throughout the poem) sound of the drum. Using ‘discordant’, a word which would usually not be associated by the steady beat of a military drum, allows John Scott to captivate his reader, and make them think more about his poem and his views. John Scott is trying to get his message through from the first line. The “H” in ‘hate’ is an aspirant, heavy and emotive sound. He also uses ‘that’ instead of the more conventional word “the”. This indicates that he is almost accusing the drum of being discordant, trying to single it out, and he is using it as a symbol of war. This is continued into the second line; he personifies the drum. By saying that it is ‘parading round’, John Scott is implying that is a soldier, and the use of the word parading also has a military reference. He writes “parading round and round and round,”- a long string of repetition. This is implying that war is relentless, repeatedly causing destruction to families, towns and youths who join up. The repeat of ‘round’ also gives a slightly melancholic feel, due to the long vowel sound. A main point about the first two lines is how the heavy “D” sounds are repeated; I hate that drum’s discordant sound, / Parading round and round and round.’ The harsh, heavy sound mimics the sound of the drum, with a steady beat to it, and is also quite depressing, as if there is just a relentless misery.
The next two lines are ‘To thoughtless youth it pleasure yields, / And lures from cities and from fields,’. ‘Thoughtless youth’ indicates that they are young, innocent men who don’t know what they are getting into and are overcome by the sound of the drum (‘it pleasure yields’). ‘And lures from cities and from fields’ refers to the fact that nowhere can escape the lure of the drum, farmers and factory workers alike will all be lured by the drum. ‘Lures’ is a word which is used alongside seduction, deception, and this carries on the image of ‘thoughtless youths’, how they are being lured, into the trap of war. As a strong Christian, John Scott may also be referring to the devil, who ‘lured’ Eve into eating the apple, again, an evil act.