The Drum and Drummer Hodge analysed

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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, na�ve, 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.

This is followed by ‘to sell their liberty for charms / Of tawdry lace and glittering arms’. The first line carries on the idea of deception; that they are selling their liberty, and the second line indicates that it’s for nothing. ‘Charms’ is also a word linked with deception, such as when someone can “charm” another to do something, and the use of the word ‘charms’ is also linked to the idea that war is seducing. The vocabulary used makes war seem quite superficial; ‘tawdry’ suggests that it’s not special, in fact quite cheap and gaudy. ‘To sell their liberty’ is a strong phrase, implying losing ones freedom, but repeats the idea that war is relentless, inescapable, only a death trap.

The last two lines of the first stanza are ‘and when Ambition’s voice commands, / To march, and fight, and fall, in foreign lands.’ This is referring to the men dying after going for these superficial ‘charms’. ‘Ambition’ is personified, and it is another metaphor linked to the military, like ‘parading’ was. ‘Ambition’ is said rather than the physical notion of a military general because he wants to generalise all war as bad. It says ‘commands’ again, a military reference, and also, a direct order or demand. It carries on the notion of ‘sell your liberty’, i.e. losing your freedom and being forced to do what you are told. The last line of the stanza has a feeling of finality about it. ‘to march, and fight, and fall, in foreign lands’ is a sequence, and is said in a way where it seems completely final, and also, generalised, as if it happens to everyone. The line is ‘to march, and fight, and fall, in foreign lands.’ ‘march’, ‘fight’, and ‘fall’ are all stressed syllables, while, due to more syllables, ‘foreign lands’ can’t be stressed in the same way, and so it seems a bit of a “downer” at the end, suggesting an anti-climax. Also, the ‘F’ sounds at the start of the words are quite harsh sounds, and this is a repeat of the heavy ‘d’ sounds at the start, indicating a tone of finality and a tone of hatred.

The second and final stanza of the poem starts off with the same first two lines from the first verse : ‘I hate that drum’s discordant sound, / Parading round and round and round.’ This is a repetition of it, again, showing his extreme hatred for War, and and also, repetition of the monotonous misery of war, implying that it happens again, and again. The fact that he repeats it could also hint that he also has something different to say about it in this stanza, because he showed war in one light, all the way through the last stanza.

It then continues with ‘To me it talks of ravaged plains, / And burning towns and ruined swains,’. He’s showing his own point of view, and says ‘it talks’. This carries on the idea of symbolising the drum. He then begins a series of physical descriptions of the reality of war, trying to appeal to people’s senses. ‘Ravaged plains’, ‘burning towns’, and ‘ruined swains’, are all physical descriptions of war. He first refers to how war is affecting land and civilisation as a whole, but then changes it to a more personal subject, ‘ruined swains’. A swain is a young man, usually from the countryside, and Scott uses colloquial language to try and appeal to the average person, by persuading him that he is just a normal person like them.

This is followed by ‘and mangled limbs, and dying groans, / And widows’ tears, and orphans’ moans;’. The first line is again, appealing to the senses, and is depicting a picture of death, and loss of limbs. ‘Mangled’ is a word meaning distorted, and overall, the line is picturing catastrophe. ‘Groans’ and ‘moans’ are long vowel sounds, and are onomatopoeic, sounding like the physical action of moaning and groaning. The second line however, is trying to show what happens to families and marriages because of war. This is intended to try and show the prospective soldier’s loved ones what will happen if they go to war.

The final two lines of the poem are ‘and all that Misery’s hand bestows, / To fill the catalogue of human woes.’ The last two lines sum up John Scott’s strong anti-war views, and he claims that the drum, his symbol of war, talks to him of ‘all that Misery’s hand bestows’. This is implying that there is nothing to be gained from war at all, and that it is full of misery. ‘To fill the catalogue of human woes’ is repeating the idea that war is full of pain. This is enforced by the words ‘fill’ and ‘catalogue’. ‘fill’ is the idea that it is all of the bad things, and ‘catalogue’ signifies that there is a vast amount of them. The use of the word ‘bestow’ is also almost sarcastic, because bestowing is generally giving someone a gift, and yet here, all war has to give is disaster.

In the poem, John Scott uses antithetical symmetry – the first stanza signifies the viewpoint, or rather, dream of a ‘thoughtless youth’, who has fallen under the spell of the drum, and the second, is John Scott’s viewpoint, and what he believes is the physical reality of war. There are many contrasts to be made between the two stanzas. In the first stanza, ‘cities’ and ‘fields’ are depicted, while in the second, these are transformed into ‘ravaged plains’, and ‘burning towns’. The addition of ‘ravaged’ and ‘burning’ to describe the reality of war was done, and also, ‘fields’ have turned into ‘plains’ and ‘cities’ into ‘towns’; perhaps a hint of degradation. In the first stanza, ‘thoughtless youth’ are indicated by Scott, while in the second, he has shown them as ‘ruined swains’.

‘Youth’ is a more formal word than ‘swains’, also indicating a slight degradation, while ‘thoughtless’ becomes ‘ruined’, denoting that thoughtlessness leads to a state of ruins, and that in this case, the thoughtlessness is being swayed by the drum and joining the war. ‘Ambition’s voice’ becomes ‘Misery’s hand’. There is two things that can be drawn from this; firstly, Ambition is a complete contrast to Misery, complying with the contrasting standards already set, and also, how ‘voice’ becomes ‘hand’. With your voice, you can promise of things, but with your hand, things are actually done, and with this John Scott is trying to imply that the ‘Ambition’ in war is promising, but in reality, ‘Misery’ is what happens.

Apart from these direct comparisons, there are also other, more general contrasts to make between the two stanzas. The first speaks of ‘pleasure’, ‘charms’, ‘lace’, ‘glittering arms’, ‘Ambition’ and ‘to march’, all superficial aspects of war, while the second, once again speaks of ‘ravaged plains’, ‘burning towns’, ‘ruined swains’, ‘mangled limbs’, ‘dying groans’, ‘widows’ tears’, ‘orphans moans’, ‘Misery’, and ‘human woes’. The contrast between the two stanzas is reiterated by John Scott repeatedly, in an attempt to get his point through by sheer number of descriptions – listing them (helped by the anaphora of the word ‘and’, which was repeated before each of these vivid descriptions).

Finally, John Scott uses rhyming couplets all the way through his poem, as if to allow the reader to take in and analyse two lines at a time, before moving on. The end of The Drum’s line are usually stops, (either commas, semicolons, or full stops), and this gives a sense of finality – it makes it seem definite. The rhythm of the rhyming couplets is such that it could also be viewed as a drumbeat.

Drummer Hodge

Drummer Hodge is written by the famous poet Thomas Hardy, and is the story of a young man, who is disrespectfully treated after dying in a foreign land.

The first stanza is in an ABAB rhyming pattern:

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.

The poem’s first two lines are referring to the innocence and youth of the man whos died, and also the disrespect shown towards him. ‘Drummer Hodge’ indicates his youth in two ways; the drummers in the army are usually the youngest in the group, and also, ‘Hodge’ is a generic, colloquial name for a young country labourer. The use of colloquial language is also appealing to the average person, like John Scott and the use of the word ‘swain’, in The Drum. Thomas Hardy is trying to achieve similar things to John Scott with the use of everyday language because it convinces the reader that he is a normal person, just like them, and that the perils of war could happen to anyone. The disrespect for him is shown by the use of the word ‘throw’ and also, the whole second line. ‘Throw’ is a careless verb, showing a complete lack of respect for Hodge, and the second line indicates that he hasn’t had a proper burial.

This is reinforced by the third line, which indicates that his ‘landmark’, which in a respectful and civilised world would most likely be a gravestone or a tomb of some kind, is actually just a ‘Kopje-crest’. ‘Kopje-crest’ means the top of a hill, but what Thomas Hardy is trying to say is that it isn’t a good enough landmark for someone to be buried to. It also uses foreign language, trying to create the effect of a foreign, and isolated atmosphere. ‘That breaks the veldt around’ is saying that his ‘hill’ is the only major landmark in the open, pasture land surrounding it, and reinforces the impression of a barren setting. On the last line, ‘mound’ is used instead of grave to make the reader remember that he hasn’t been given a proper burial, and instead of a tomb (for a hero in the army) or even a grave, he’s got just a 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.

The first two lines emphasise the youth of Drummer Hodge. ‘Young’, ‘Hodge’, ‘Drummer’ and ‘Fresh’ all relate to his tender age. ‘Young’ for obvious reasons, ‘Hodge’ is a young country labourer, the ‘Drummer’ in a group of soldiers is usually the youngest, and ‘fresh’ indicates that he is a new recruit, of which most are young. The other main aspect of the first two lines if how the ignorance of Hodge is shown. It says he ‘never knew’, and then goes on to describe the harsh realities of war. Emphasis on youth and innocence is played upon by both John Scott and Thomas Hardy. John Scott says ‘thoughtless youth’, and portrays them being seducted into war. Elder readers would have been able to relate ignorance and youth to their own younger male relatives, and then been able to dissuade them or prevent them from going to war. Thomas Hardy then goes on to mention the alien landscape, ‘the broad Karoo/ The Bush, the dusty loam’, but before these, the mention of ‘his Wessex home’.

The mention of ‘Wessex’ contrasts with the aforementioned words, and also ‘home’, a place to call ‘his’ own. The reference to England makes the distinction between Hodge’s homeland and the theatre of war much easier. Nowhere in England would you find the words ‘Karoo’ and ‘Bush’ being used, and all three are geographical plains that England, with a rich farming history, would not be associated with. The use of ‘Karoo’, ‘Bush’ and ‘dusty loam’ try to continue the alien atmosphere from the first verse, and give the impression that war will take you away from everyone. John Scott tried more vivid, physical descriptions of war, speaking of ‘ravaged plains’, ‘mangled limbs’, and ‘ruined swains’, trying to appeal possibly more to the soldier’s themselves, and showing them the harsh reality of war. However, Thomas Hardy is appealing more to the relatives because he is speaking of men being separated, taken to die on an alien land, rather than on our own English land.

This is because relatives like the idea that they could be with family in their inevitable dying moments, and to see them through to the grave, with a respectable ceremony. The opposite is occurring here, and this does go through strongly to older readers. While John Scott has gone for a different, more visual approach, he finds the fact that they won’t be with family in death significant enough, and in The Drum, he wrote ‘To march, and fight, and fall, in foreign lands’. Another place where the two poems are similar is the use of long vowel sounds. Thomas Hardy rhymes ‘home’, ‘loam’ and ‘gloam’ to give the second stanza a melancholic feel due to the long vowel sounds, while in The Drum, the long, onomatopoeic sounds of ‘moans’ and ‘groans’ appeal to the senses and give the reader more insight into war.

Yet portion of that unknown plain

Will Hodge forever be;

His homely Northern breast and brain

Grow to some Southern tree,

And strange-eyed constellation reign

His stars eternally.

The first two lines of the last stanza underpin the idea above, and is made even stronger by the use of the words ‘portion’ and ‘forever’. ‘Portion’ indicates that he isn’t a person anymore, merely something scientific, and ‘forever’ just compounds the potential misery of relatives. ‘Unknown plain’ also indicates that the relatives will never find out what happened to their Hodge.

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