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Drummer Hodge Essay

Context

Thomas Hardy (1840-1928) was born in Dorset and was encouraged to develop a love for both education and stories by his mother, Jemima. He trained to be an architect and then moved to London to pursue his studies and career. After five years in the capital, he returned to Dorset and began writing more seriously.

His first writing career was as a novelist rather than a poet. Hardy published Tess of the D'Urbervilles and Jude the Obscure that are now very well thought of but were criticised at the time. Such was the level of criticism for Jude the Obscure, Hardy decided to move away from writing books and turned to poetry.

The death of his wife Emma in 1912 had a huge impact on Hardy and he wrote many poems about her and his feelings for her. Even though he remarried (to his secretary, Florence Dugdale) it is said he never got over the loss of Emma.

Themes that recur in Hardy's writings are injustice, love, break ups, disappointment, fate and the unfair treatment of women. He was basically a traditionalist when it came to the form of poetry but one interesting thing he often did was include colloquial [colloquial: Ordinary, everyday language and dialect.]  language. This type of language is usually heard rather than read; spoken language that is usually not standard English.

Hardy lived from 1840 to 1928.  He wrote poems about the Second Boer War of 1899-1902 and the Great War of 1914-1918. Hardy wrote a number of novels, many considered masterpieces of English fiction: Far from the Madding Crowd, The Return of the Native, The Mayor of Casterbridge, The Woodlanders, Tess of the d'Urberville, and Jude the Obscure. 

“Drummer Hodge”

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 forever be;
His homely Northern breast and brain
Grow to some Southern tree,
And strange-eyed constellations reign
His stars eternally.

1. What role did Hodge serve in the war?  What do you know historically about his role?
2. What is the meaning of the words “kopje” and “veldt,” and what image do they paint in your interruption of the poem?
3. What can be said about Hodge’s burial?  Why is he buried in a hurry?
4. How does Hardy make reference to the natural world to explain Hodge’s situation?
5. Speak to the irony of Hodge being buried in this foreign land forever.
6. Why does Hardy make reference to the stars?
7. How does the innocence of youth seem to make Hodge’s early death seem wasteful?