Thomas Hardy's Drummer Hodge Comprehension

Drummer Hodge

Introduction

Thomas Hardy’s “Drummer Hodge” describes the cruel burial of a young soldier who died in the Boer War in South Africa. By lamenting the terrible irony of this Wessex boy dying in the “unknown plain” so far from his home without understanding the reasons behind the conflict, the poem suggest his death was absurd and pointless.

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 constellation reign
His stars eternally 

Comprehension Question

  1. What does the verb ‘throw’ suggest about how the soldiers dispose of Drummer Hodge’s body?
  2. How is this reinforced by the adjective ‘uncoffined’ and the phrase ‘just as found’?
  3. The ‘kopje-crest’ as substitute for which ‘landmark’?
  4. What is meant by the line ‘and foreign constellations west’? What other phrases in the poem continue this idea?
  5. Drummer Hodge is described as ‘young’. What was the role of a ‘drummer’ in the army?
  6. Where was the young soldier born?
  7. What did Hodge never understand during his service in South Africa?
  8. Why is the plain ‘unknown’?
  9. Explain the last stanza in your own words.
  10. List any Afrikaans words used in the poem.
  11. How does Hardy use these references to the natural world to explain Hodge’s situation?
  12. List all of the antithetical images featured in the poem? What is Hardy hoping to achieve by using these contrasts?
  13. How many syllables are in each line? Is the poem written in tetrameter or trimeter?
  14. What is the rhyme scheme of each stanza?
  15. Why has Thomas Hardy created this particular rhythm?
  16. What is Hardy’s attitude towards war?

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