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Poems in Honor Boer Wars

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In this essay, I am going to analyze the style and techniques that are used in the two poems. I will do this by comparing the two poems as well as including samples from the texts which will help to illustrate the points that I make. The two poems which I will analyze are ‘The Drummer Hodge’ by Thomas Hardy and ‘Remains’ by Simon Armitage.

The poem ‘Drummer Hodge’ was published by Thomas Hardy in 1899, this was after the First Boer War had concluded and just before the start of the Second Boer War. Over 20,000 British Soldiers were killed in the Second Boer War, with over 900 going missing and never being found, and it is for these soldiers that ‘Drummer Hodge’ is most evocative. ‘Remains’ by Simon Armitage was published in 2008 as part of his collection, The Not Dead. A series of war poems based on the testimonies of ex-soldiers. Unlike ‘Drummer Hodge’, there is no rhyme scheme for this poem, and this helps with the flow and theme of the poem. The fragmentation of the phrases allows the reader to feel as though they themselves are a part of the conversation in the poem. This use of technology helps to pull the reader in, making them feel a part of what is happening.

‘Drummer Hodge’ is split into three stanzas and has the rhyming pattern of ABAB which takes place throughout the poem. It helps to illustrate the theme of war drumming. The verse structure and syllable count help to create a beat to the poem that reiterates the idea of a drum. The first and third stanzas are in the present tense whereas the second stanza is in the past tense, this use of switching between the tenses helps to get across the natural tone of the speaker and how the poem is a story of what goes on for the young drummers that were used to carry messages and ammunition to the front lines during the Second Boer War. The title of this poem is ‘The Drummer Hodge.’ The word Hodge is a familiar abbreviation of the name Roger. The name Roger is used as the typical name for an ‘English agricultural labourer.’ It was also considered to be a slang word for a country boy. With Hardy using this name that suggests a commonplace working man, Hodge is representative of the casualties of the Second Boer War.

Next is the analysis of the tone and language that is used throughout the poem. The tone that is used in the poem is rather hostile. This could suggest a hostile feeling towards the Boer War and the use of drummers. There is also a sense of resentment that Hodge is being buried in South Africa a place that is ‘strange’ and ‘foreign’, a place that is not his home. There is plenty of imagery that is used in this poem with each stanza starting with an earthly image and ending with stars such as a funeral, with the idea of the strangeness of the terrain and the stars repeatedly stressed. ‘Strange stars amid the gloom’, the ‘strange stars’ are perhaps a reference to the foreignness of the country in which the young drummer is buried in, with ‘gloam’ being an archaic word for twilight, being used to describe the scenery under the stars. Where Hodge becomes one with the earth that he is buried within. The use of the stars helps to cultivate the feeling of expansion where they are easy to get lost in. This is used to signify how Hodge’s death is overshadowed by the importance of the war. If the war had not broken out then the young drummer would have lived and died in his homeland within British soil where he belongs, rather than within foreign lands and being the ‘salt of the earth’.

The poem ‘Remains’ is split into eight stanzas with the first seven in an unrhymed form, with the final stanza consisting of two lines. Due to this stanza being smaller than the rest it helps it to stand out and help to reiterate the point where the soldier cannot forget about the actions, he took in killing the man who could have been innocent. The first four stanzas of this poem focus upon the shooting and killing of the man with the second part of the poem focusing on the effects that the killing has had on the speaker. The title of this poem is ‘Remains,’ this could be in relation to the remains of the man who is killed or could have a deeper meaning and be referring to the remains of guilt that the speaker’s memory is riddled with. This leads us to the next part where this poem has been written as a monologue. In other words, it has been written from the direct view of the speaker and therefore the poem has a sense of fast-paced natural speech. The fact that there is no clear rhyming pattern and there are examples of enjambment between some stanzas helps to illustrate that someone is telling their story in a natural way.

Next, I will look at the language that is used in the poem. This poem is anecdotal which adds to the effect that the speaker is telling us his story. Throughout the poem, the speaker uses slang such as ‘mates’ and colloquial language such as ‘legs it,’ this use of slang helps to show the sense of natural tone and that it is the speaker’s story. The first two lines of the poem are in the past tense with the remainder being in the present, this switch between tenses adds a sense of immediacy to the narrative. Secondly, the imagery used to show the killing is brutal and graphic. The bullets ‘rip’ the man’s body and after he is dead, he is ‘sort of inside out.’ Here the poet does not spare the reader of the details of the man’s death, another example of this is when the speaker’s mate ‘tosses his guts back into his body.’ This helps to convey how disturbing the experiences of the soldiers were as well as the trauma that they carry with them once they have returned home.

Both poems include themes of death and conflict. With ‘Drummer Hodge’ focuses on how the young drummers were used during the Boer Wars and how he died in a place of which he did not belong. With ‘Remains’ focuses on how a soldier struggled with the experiences that he had whilst at war and how the actions he took in killing a man haunted him for the rest of his life. Both also provide graphic descriptions and imagery of death and war. Another similarity between the poems is that the poets have both never been to war and therefore the poems are based off other people’s experiences, this allows the poets to use language that has a tone that helps to create a natural tone of the speaker. A tone which allows a story to be told. Some of the differences between the poems are that ‘Drummer Hodge’ uses a rhyming technique in order to create a drumming effect throughout the poem, whereas ‘Remains’, doesn’t have a rhyming pattern at any point in the poem, this helps to reiterate the idea of telling a story. Where the structure of ‘Remains’ starts to disintegrate at the end, whereas ‘The Drummer Hodge’ uses a more regular structure. Lastly, another difference is that ‘Drummer Hodge’ is about past warfare in the Second Boer War, whereas ‘Remains’ is about modern warfare.

In conclusion, both poems use different techniques, tones, and language to entice the reader in and to give them a sense of what the experiences were truly like for those that were there during these wars. As a whole there are similarities between both poems, however, there are also many differences.

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Poems in Honor Boer Wars. (2022, August 01). GradesFixer. Retrieved August 16, 2022, from
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