1.1 Thomas Hardy (1840-1928) was born in
Dorset and was encouraged to develop a
love for both education and stories by his
1.2 Hardy's 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.
1.3 Such was the level of criticism for Jude the
Obscure, Hardy decided to move away from writing
books and turned to poetry.
1.4 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.
1.5 Themes that recur in Hardy's
writings are injustice, love,
break ups, disappointment,
fate and the unfair treatment of
2 Subject Matter
2.1 Dummer Hodge was originally published in 1899
under the title ‘The Dead Drummer’, only a few
weeks after the start of the Second Boer Wa
2.2 The Boer Wars were fought between the
British and the Dutch settlers of the Boer
republics in what is now South Africa.
2.3 Hardy was against the Boer War. Like many liberals
of the time, he thought the Boers were simply
defending their homes. Why did the British feel the
need to keep their territory so strongly? Perhaps the
diamond and gold mines of the area had something to
do with it.
2.4 Drummer Hodge describes the burial of a British
soldier during the Second Boer War, in South Africa. He
is buried without ceremony, a coffin, or a gravestone.
2.5 His humble
the exotic South
refers to the
that will watch
2.6 Finally he
introduces the idea
that Hodge’s body
becomes part of
the landscape, so
that he has some
there. Despite his
short life, the
become part of
something that is
3 Form and Structure
3.1 The poem is
formed of three
stanzas, each of
six lines, with a
metre and rhyme
3.2 The lines alternate between 8 and 6 syllables, with
the rhyme scheme of ABABAB for each verse.
3.3 This is a very
common metre for
hymns to follow. It
therefore, for this
poem, about the
burial of a young
4 Language and Imagery
4.1 Boer is a term that describes the first Dutch
settlers of the area that is now South Africa.
4.2 The concept of the drummer is a key image.
Drummers were young lads who beat the drum to keep
time as soldiers marched. There is a sense of
innocence and youth here, which gives his death more
4.3 The image of the constellations is repeated at the end of
each stanza. In the first two stanzas they are "foreign" and
"strange", but in the final verse, although they are
"strange-eyed", they are linked closely with Hodge himself.
His own "stars" are also there. The use of celestial imagery
elevates the dead soldier, making him seem more important
and more valued, in contrast to the careless way in which
he was buried.
4.4 The sense of value and
belonging together contrast
with the lack of care shown
for him by his fellow
soldiers, which is ironic
considering the reverence
with which the names of the
war dead are usually treated.
4.5 The use of Boer
combinations of sounds –
the "kopje-crest" for
consonants that are not
usually found together.
4.6 Similarly the "broad Karoo", where the assonance
emphasises the strange name, sounds almost
nonsensical. These words emphasise the exotic
location, particularly when contrasted with the
5 Attitudes, Themes and Ideas
5.1 There is a certain
amount of anger in this
poem, in the contrast
between the way that
Hodge is treated by
his own fellows, and
the acceptance and
value that he finds
within the "unknown
5.2 His "homely" (that is, lowly) origins are emphasised, as is
his youth: Hodge is unimportant so they throw his body into
a grave "uncoffined".
5.3 The unimportance of Hodge in life forms the basis of the strange
contrast in the poem. Despite his lack of importance in life, in death
Hodge becomes part of something that will outlast the war, and all
the soldiers who buried him: the land.
5.4 He will never be a hero but the reference to "his stars" seems to suggest
that Hodge even has a divine element
5.5 By concentrating on, and elevating, a single unimportant soldier in the
war, Hardy is able to say something about the value of all life, and to
make a powerful anti-war statement.