Thomas Hardy

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What is the atmosphere in Thomas Hardy's poem "Drummer Hodge"?

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The atmosphere in the poem “Drummer Hodge” is disquieting and, later on, transcendent.

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The atmosphere in Thomas Hardy’s poem “Drummer Hodge” could be called gloomy. The downcast mood relates to what’s happening in the poem. There’s been a death. Drummer Hodge has died. The name suggests that this person was a drummer in a war. If one researches the context of Hardy’s poem, they’ll find that it’s about the Second Boer War. This conflict started in 1899 and pitted the British Empire against antagonistic South African entities. The men fighting in this war do not have time to properly bury Hodge. They “throw” him in the ground “uncoffined.” The haphazard funeral adds to the disquieting atmosphere, as does the depiction of Hodge as young and relatively naïve.

One might also say that the atmosphere of the poem is spiritual. There is an ethereal quality to the final stanza. Hardy presents Hodge as becoming one with his impromptu gravesite. The “portion of that unknown plain / Will Hodge for ever be,” notes Hardy. Hodge’s merger with the land indicates that his spirit lives on. While his tangible body is obsolete, intangible parts will continue to exist in the area. He is a part of a tree and seems to bear a relationship to the stars.

In the last stanza, the atmosphere comes across as transcendent, as Hodge moves beyond his corporeal state and takes on a different form.

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