Saturday, 14 November 2009

Drummer Hodge vs. ‘Combat Barbie’ Hodge

Katrina Hodge / Lance Corporal Hodge / Combat Barbie / Miss England hopes to ‘serve in Afghanistan.’ To serve whom?

Thomas Hardy wrote some fine war poems including ‘Drummer Hodge’ about a Boer war casualty. Hodge was a sometimes derogatory name for a rural labourer and Hardy had written about their situation sympathetically. We are meant to understand that the disenfranchised soldier, fighting to secure the Transvaal gold mines for other men, had been the disenfranchised English labourer of peacetime, and to causally link the two states. Hardy is right, men with productive land of their own in a country controlled by their own people are not often found fighting imperial wars as soldiers for hire. Needless to say, nor would their women seek reason or glory in an imperial misadventure like the present Afghan war.

Drummer Hodge
by Thomas Hardy

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.

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