How Do The Poems Of The Boer War Demonstrate The Pity And Tragedy Of War?
The Boer War began as a struggle between British and Dutch “Boer” settlers for control of diamond and gold deposits in South Africa. Despite suffering early defeats, the British army claimed victory in 1900. However, the Boers continued to fight using guerrilla tactics. The British eventually halted this by creating the first concentration camps; women and children rounded up and farms burned.
The spread of education in the nineteenth century had produced a flood of popular newspapers and magazines so much poetry was published. Most was crude verse written by soldiers, but the most impressive poems came from war correspondents at the front or from civilians waiting for their loved ones to return. Antipathy to war was a striking theme of this writing. I have studied five examples of such poems; “Drummer Hodge” and “A Wife in London” by Hardy, “War” by Edgar Wallace and “Dirge of Dead Sisters” and “The Hyaenas” by Kipling.
Thomas Hardy, already famous for his novels and powerful imagination, read of the death of a young drummer boy, and thought it tragic that a boy too young to understand war should be buried in alien land far from home. He felt compelled to write “Drummer Hodge”, a poem about this boy. First, Hardy describes Hodge as thrown in “uncoffined” under “strange-eyed constellations”, showing how Hodge was buried without dignity or regard in foreign lands he didn’t understand, and compares Hodge’s short life to the “eternal ” reign of the constellations, making the reader pity Hodge dying before he had ever really lived. Hodge never knew the “meaning of the broad Karoo”, highlights he didn’t know what he was fighting for or ultimately had died for, making his death seem pointless and tragic. An emphasis is put on Hodge’s foreign surroundings when Hardy uses South African words such as “kopje” so that the reader feels disorientated and empathises with the plight of Hodge living in an exotic land. The South African phrases are out of place in an English poem just like Hodge was out of place in South Africa.
... to Vitai Lampada. Drummer Hodge was written by Thomas Hardy, who wrote some of the best poems about the Boer War, including A Wife In ... of battles took place in various areas of South Africa against Boer settlers. The Boer War was mainly about the gold and diamond deposits. ... of the land Hodge is buried in is demonstrated by native words like “kopji” and “karoo”. These are South African words. ...
A “Wife in London” describes the setting back home where a woman waits for her husband to return and “sits in tawny vapour” given off by the Thames whilst the “street-lamp glimmers cold”. This sordid scene depicts the anxiety and agony of waiting, not knowing what is happening to the ones you love. The vapour illustrates the hazy future of her husband and may also be shielding her from the outside world, making her husband appear further away, whilst the dim street-lamp is the hope and light at the end of the tunnel. We pity the terrible waiting game the woman has to endure.
The woman then receives a letter from a messenger informing of how her husband has “fallen in the far south land”. This emphasises how lonely her husband was when he died, and how futile his death was. “Tis the morrow; the fog hangs thicker” signifies how all hope has gone for the woman; she is well and truly alone thanks to the tragedy of war. A second letter is brought to her “by the hand that the worm doth know”. The fact that the worm is already at her husband’s body indicates that he, like Hodge, was buried straight in the earth, as a coffin would take a while to rot. The woman’s heart flickers as the “firelight” does, showing her desperate hope that the previous letter was an error. However, the letter is nothing but ironic and a grim joke played on the woman by fate, as a letter arrives from her husband when he was alive promising “jaunts by break and bum”. The husband and wife will never meet and love each other by the stream, in the warm weather so contrasting with the current bitter sold, and this tragedy is emphasised by the commas and parenthesis Hardy uses to slow down the pace of last stanza so that the reader has time to empathise with the woman. There is possibly an underlying message to this poem that if one participates in killings, then destiny will catch up with you in the end.
Visions of WWI 1. Compare and contrast the fashions of the W. W. I. with the fashions of W. W.II a. What does hairstyle, length and width of skirts, jewelry, bathing suits, make-up, cigarette smoking, etc. indicate about W. W.I. and W. W. II: During W. W. I the Austrian wore the pike gray 1909 pattern tunic and trousers.They have three white stars on the collar which indicate Sergeants rank. Some ...
“War” is set in an emergency field hospital near the front line and encapsulates the horrors of war when we hear of the shocking conditions in the makeshift hospital; “a tent pitched at the base”, “a table with a waterproof cover” and “a bottle with a guttering deep in its neck”. The medic carries out potentially death-defying operations in a poorly lit unhygienic tent, showing once more the tragedy and foolishness of war as the politicians would be sitting in hygienic mansions whereas the hospital was simply a makeshift tent. Furthermore, the whole grotesque cycle of war is shown, “O hark to the wind carried cheer, a mutter of guns at the front, a whimper of sobs at the rear”. These metaphors illustrate the early enthusiasm and cheer of soldiers going to war, however this cheer becomes a mutter when they start fighting and ultimately fades out to a whimper as the soldiers who survived the fight return; war turns men into children.
Equally, there is a deliberate pause when the first tangible effect of brutal war is mentioned, “you can lay him down on the table: so.” This brings the scene to life, as does “Easily-gently” which brings home the man’s pain, as this direct language is commonplace and practical. The final sentence of the first stanza trails away after “And it’s War! But the part that’s not for show” as the horror is so great that Wallace dares not to speak its name. In the second stanza, a table “laid out for one” contrasts the forlorn table for a solitary wounded man with a table set for more than one in celebration. The man is dining with death whereas at home he could be dining with his family and friends.
Another comparison occurs when “guttering” and “flickering” from the second stanza echo “mutter” and “whimper” from the first stanza. ‘Guttering’ and ‘mutter’ use guttural, robust consonants whereas ‘flickering’ and ‘whimper’ are fragile to signify that robust inanimate objects like guns can weather the war but that human life is fragile. The man is described for the first time as “limp, mangled”. The comma slows the reader down so that they see this carcass of a human being. In the third stanza, the reader is halted when Wallace says “a trickle of-what?” Again, our imagination is left to fill in the blood, making the reader more involved in the poem.
Second Battle of the Marne It was in the summer of 1918 that Germany would commence their battle against the Allied Forces in what would become known as the Second Battle of the Marne, which would be the last major German offensive of World War I (Michael Duffy, 2009). It was this battle that would mark Germany’s last attempt of turning the tables of the war in their favor, though it was destined ...
Furthermore, the parenthesis (‘the …’) in stanza three illustrate the man’s mechanical pattern of thought with perfect space between each action before he moves on to his next task. Throughout the poem, there is a liberal use of common, realistic phrases such as “what a mess it h as made” which show that this has happened to real people, whilst “orderly clean this knife” illustrates the tragedy of war as there are many more patients to come.
Full stops only occur when the doctor commands the Orderly to perform a task. The absence of exclamation marks indicates how frequent and commonplace the Orderly’s dreadful tasks have become. The doctor’s commands to the Orderly in the ninth line of each stanza mark the fading hope for the patient. From ‘Orderly, Hold the light!’ to ‘Orderly, Hold his hand” to “Orderly, take It out.”
Finally, we vividly see the dehumanisation of the doctor in his aloof observations and his mechanic, almost sick narration of the gradual death of the solider; “the clink of a stopper and glass: a sigh as the chloroform drips”. Equally, he no longer regards the man as human but instead only calls him “him, the mangled work of a gun, The Wreck” and “It”. This shows how detached from the pain of others the doctor has become. The doctor’s compassion, when he tells the man he’s not “going to hurt him”, turns into pity for the man’s family “it’s hard for his child and rough on his wife”. The doctor must shut the full enormity of the situation out of his mind less he should become attached to patients and unable to perform his role.
Rudyard Kipling was a renowned supporter of the British Empire, but had grave doubts when typhoid fever broke out in the town he was reporting from in South Africa. Here he got a first hand view of the work performed by the few women volunteer nurses, and decided to share their courage and endurance through his poem “Dirge of dead sisters”. The questioning tone is key to the piece and indeed both the first and second stanza begin with “who”, prompting those involved in the war to recall and relive the ghastly scenes and remember the nurses who provided sanctuary with their love.
British soldiers and civilians had high expectations of their government following World War 1, most of which did not eventuate. The soldiers needed understanding of their suffering and emotional pains of the war, while the British civilians felt that Germany’s reparations were highly important in the short-term. Employment was a significant issue to both groups, with the soldiers arriving ...
The nurses brought hope. This is illustrated when the tents are described as “violet peaks uplifting”, violet as veins coursing with blood, a great symbol of life. Equally, we can see how unselfish the women are as they have “dust upon their hair”. The traditional view of a nurse is someone meticulously dressed who takes care of her image. The sisters in this poem are working so hard they have no time for unimportant matters. Tragedy occurs when the hope has faded in the second stanza as the purple veins are now “blanket hidden bodies, flagless, surrounded by flies”.
Despite this, the nurses still had “glory in their eyes”; they were stoic and even full of good cheer (‘mirthful’), which would have given great hope to the soldiers. The sisters don’t even get a proper funeral despite their mighty effort, and indeed their work is not recognised back home as they remain “flagless”. We see how hard the men have worked too, as they are “footsore”, but the fact that they still find time to attend the women’s funeral despite being so tired illustrates the respect the women commanded and how cherished their work was. Kipling repeatedly uses “and” in the second stanza to shows the weariness and relentless degradation of it all. There is much alliteration on ‘s’; “dust, stench, faces, staleness and sisters”. This intensifies the text as does the alliteration of r in the second stanza; “mirthful, ringed, reeking, endured, unrest, rested and labours”. However, Kipling saves the really tragic moment for the end when he reminds us of the fragility and femininity of the women in how “light they are to lower down”. This humanises the sisters and makes them seem not so invincible but weak human beings, making their efforts all the more honourable.
“The hyenas” shows Kipling’s horror at the disrespectful burial of the dead. He describes how the ugly scavengers, hyenas, would dig up and eat the soldiers but he doesn’t blame the hyenas as it is their instinct, “they are only resolute that they shall eat”. Kipling goes on to say that the soldiers are “safer meat than the weakest thing alive”, illustrating once more how futile the men’s deaths were and how tragic their fall from grace (from human flesh to edible flesh) was. In death, the men are the same as all other meats. This is shown in the comparisons with a goat and a worm in the fourth stanza. The hyenas horrifically bring the corpse to light by “taking good hold of his army shirt until their tushes white”. This shames the soldier and could have been prevented with a decent burial, making the reader fume at the appalling treatment of the soldier. “The pitiful face is shown again”, paints a grotesque image of the man being brought back from his grave, tossed around and eaten. Most men were Christian during the Boer War, and removing someone from their grave was seen as the ultimate defilement. Kipling invokes God with the man’s death and implies that the superiors who sent the man to his doom are lower than the “soulless hyenas”, making them destined for hell: “nor do they defile the dead man’s name, that is reserved for his kind”.
In this first reflection paper I will be discussing “the fall of man” and “the death of Christ. ” I chose these two because I feel as though they go well together. The fall of man represents sin being introduced to man, and the death of Christ is where the opportunity to be forgiven of sin is presented. Although I have heard these stories many times before this course has enlightened me on a more ...
There are several poignant rhymes in the poem. Firstly, “eat” is rhymed with “meat”, vividly showing the gruesomeness of the dead human flesh. “Sting” is paired with “King”, linking the King with the venomous bite of a snake. Snakes send creatures to their death, just like the King sent soldiers to their death via war. Finally, “shame” rhymes with “name”, illustrating that by being removed from his grave, the man suffers the ultimate humiliation on his family name.
All these poems demonstrate the immense pity and tragedy of war. They share a great honesty. War is no longer portrayed as the “beautiful game”.