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Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Thomas Hardy, Drummer Hodge




 Frederick James Shields, The Drummer Boy's Dream



They throw in Drummer Hodge, to rest
Uncoffined -- just as found:
His landmark is a kopje-crest
That breaks the veldt around:
And foreign constellations west
Each night above his mound.


Young Hodge the drummer never knew --
Fresh from his Wessex home --
The meaning of the broad Karoo,
The Bush, the dusty loam,
And why uprose to nightly view
Strange stars amid the gloam.


Yet portion of that unknown plain
Will Hodge for ever be;
His homely Northern breast and brain
Grow to some Southern tree,
And strange-eyed constellations reign
His stars eternally.


From my report, "THOMAS HARDY SPRING WEEKEND IN CORNWALL (March 18-20, 2016)", Thomas Hardy Society Journal.

"Dr Jane Thomas, Reader in 19th and Early 20th Century Literature at the University of Hull, gave an enlightening talk on 'The Meaning of the Broad Karoo: Hardy and the Boer War”.

I had never studied the Boer War poems as a group or narrative, and Dr Thomas guided us through Hardy’s changing and contradictory attitudes to war, from belligerent, martial, patriotic jingoism (the militaristic mood being associated with his interest in embarkation, as well as strategy and tactics) to anti-materialistic pacifism and the simple humanitarian profundity of the poem Drummer Hodge, and Hardy’s feelings, especially after he started reading about the casualties amongst the young country boys called up to fight, some of whom would have been known to him.

Was Hardy trying at different times to adopt the role of a public War Poet or of a disillusioned Bardic protest-poet when dealing with the Boer Wars, the Franco-Prussian and Napoleonic wars and the ‘mechanised horror’ of the First World War?

Dr. Thomas paid special attention to Drummer Hodge (a ‘work of genius’, the ‘closest thing to perfection’ she had ever read), and The Darkling Thrush".



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