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  #1  
Old 01-09-2012, 09:29 PM
Lance Levens Lance Levens is offline
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Default A 3rd Ruined Poem: Drummer Hodge

I

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.

II

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.

III

Yet portion of that unknown plain
Will Hodge for ever be;
His homely Northern breast and brain
Grow to some Southern tree,
And strange-eyed constellations reign
His stars eternally.





Drummer Vaughn
-de/composed from Hardy

I

They throw in Drummer Vaughn to rest
Uncoffined, just as found;
His landmark is a little crest
That marks the landscape 'round,
And strange stars circle toward the west
Each night above his mound.

II

Young Vaughn the Drummer never knew--
Fresh from his London home--
The meaning of that country's hue,
The woods he had to roam.
Or why strange stars rose into view
Each night in heaven's dome.

III

A part, though, of that foreign plain
Vaughn will now come to be;
His simple English heart and brain
Become some tropic tree;
Strange constellations will remain
Above him endlessly.
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  #2  
Old 01-10-2012, 12:21 AM
John Whitworth's Avatar
John Whitworth John Whitworth is offline
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This is really an excellent teaching method. There's a whole session here, maybe more, depending on the intelligence of the pupils. Is one allowed to call them pupils?

He is the teacher of those school pupils.

He is the facilitator of those kids in their learning environment.
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  #3  
Old 01-10-2012, 02:37 AM
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Ann Drysdale Ann Drysdale is offline
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I am fascinated by this thread and with this third poem there is a dawning of the idea's relevance to translation - Oh, what have I, on so many occasions, done?

And now I'm going to say something I may regret. I don't think this reworked version does as much of a disservice to the original as did the others. It moves me. Had I seen it alone I'd have rated it highly. But why do I think this?

Had the original been in Latin, say, would I have felt...? We've lost South Africa - is that as important as I feel I ought to think it is? I'm off back inside my head to find out. I may have spoken too soon...
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Old 01-10-2012, 02:56 AM
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Susan d.S. Susan d.S. is offline
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I'm guessing this one has to with Hardy's vigorous and unconventional use of verbs and unconventional syntax. There is also a flattening of diction in #2, but that seems to go with the more straightforward sentence structure. I vastly prefer the original.
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Old 01-10-2012, 08:53 AM
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Maryann Corbett Maryann Corbett is offline
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I think Ann's right that the emotional structure of the poem hasn't been altered. But some of its color has been drained. Let's look at what's been changed: everything not typical of modern conversational English, in diction and in syntax.

They throw in Drummer Hodge, to rest

Hodge > Vaughn. I think this is just to distinguish one version from the other.

Uncoffined--just as found:
His landmark is a kopje-crest


A foreign word, one that left a hole in my head until I looked it up--but then, what a striking visual effect!

That breaks the veldt around;

Another foreign word, fortunately this time one I know, and that conjures a lot of visual and historical specificity. A pattern appears: specificity and place and time are being bashed out of the poem.

And foreign constellations west
Each night above his mound.


"West" as a verb is nonstandard; it grabs our attention. Was it nonstandard to the same degree to Hardy's contemporaries?

II

Young Hodge, the Drummer, never knew--
Fresh from his Wessex home--


Wessex > London. It's true that more people can call up images of London, but for those why know that Wessex is important to Hardy's novels, it's clear that this word was a significant part of what was in his head when he wrote this poem.

The two commas isolating "the Drummer" and that cap on Drummer are also gone. I'm less sure of what they contribute to the original, but their absence helps me see what Snodgrass what aiming to change.

The meaning of the broad karoo,

Another word I had to look up, and another term for a very specific geological/geographical feature. "That country's hue" is terribly flat and general by contrast.

The bush, the dusty loam,
And why uprose to nightly view
Strange stars
amid the gloam.


A grammatical inversion, and another word that wouldn't occur in modern conversation. I think, though, that Hardy's audience would have found inversions more congenial than we do, and they would have been perfectly accustomed to items of poetic diction like "gloam." Around here, we would probably take a new poet to task for those. Are we always right? I'm less than certain.

III

Yet portion of that unknown plain

A noun without an article. I can just hear us saying "forced for meter!!!" I'd like to know more about why Hardy found it acceptable, and why his audience did.

Will Hodge for ever be;

I think this is just a case where modern spelling has closed up a two-word compound, but I'd have to do more look-up.


His homely Northern breast and brain
Grow to some Southern tree,


"Homely" is changed because its most common current meaning is not what Hardy meant: characteristic of home. "Breast" is changed because we don't use it conversationally to mean "heart"; only poetic diction does that. But if we axe it, we lose an alliteration.

Perhaps "Northern" and "Southern" are changed because what they meant to Hardy gets confused in the thinking of his American students, who'll automatically think of the US Civil War.


And strange-eyed constellations reign
His stars eternally.


This last set of changes doesn't fit my thesis, but it does take out all the figures of speech in these lines, reducing them to a flat literal statement. "Strange-eyed" is a personification, as is the idea of constellations reigning, and the idea that they "reign his stars" alludes to the ancient notion of one's stars as one's fate, which hauls in memories of a lot of other, older literature.

I haven't discussed the changes in punctuation. There are quite a few, and I think they fit the pattern of nonstandard to standard. Whether they greatly affect the workings of the poem, I'm less sure; I'll need to think harder. Their effect seems much smaller than the other changes.

The more of these I work on, the more strongly it strikes me that when we critique poems on the board, we have the hard job of trying to see what the poem doesn't have that it might--of imagining the perfect poem that's been somehow de-composed in the execution.

I've exercised a lot of self-control in not looking at the book before thinking about this! I'll do that later.

Last edited by Maryann Corbett; 01-10-2012 at 08:58 AM.
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Old 01-10-2012, 09:28 AM
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John Whitworth John Whitworth is offline
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Maryann, the name Hodge is earthy, peasant in a way the name Vaughn is not. Dr Johnson's cat was Hodge. Vaugh(a)n is a metaphysical poet. Also Hodge clumps along but Vaughn flits.

And a kopje crest ties the poem to a real place and a real time.

Homely doesn't just mean pertaining to home. Hodge is a thickset, plain sort of a boy, rather like Rimbaud in his photographs, though I am sure he did not write poetry..

North and South - I do think American students might be expected to know tat an English poet is not referring to the American Civil War. An Atlas might help.
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Old 01-10-2012, 09:54 AM
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Maryann Corbett Maryann Corbett is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John Whitworth View Post
Maryann, the name Hodge is earthy, peasant in a way the name Vaughn is not. Dr Johnson's cat was Hodge. Vaugh(a)n is a metaphysical poet. Also Hodge clumps along but Vaughn flits.
This raises an interesting question, John. Can a poet predict and/or control the connotations of names as easily as other kinds of words? I agree with your thoughts on Vaugh[a]n. But the only Hodge I know is an accomplished poet. Does your meaning have to do with sound associations, like "hod," as in a bricklayer's tool?

Quote:
And a kopje crest ties the poem to a real place and a real time.
Exactly.

Quote:
Homely doesn't just mean pertaining to home.
Indeed. Also simple, rural, a whole constellation of ideas related to, well, Wessex.

Quote:
Hodge is a thickset, plain sort of a boy, rather like Rimbaud in his photographs, though I am sure he did not write poetry..
On this matter, there are things you're carrying in your head that I lack. Would you tell us more about why "Hodge" means this to you and why it might have meant that to Hardy?

Quote:
North and South - I do think American students might be expected to know tat an English poet is not referring to the American Civil War. An Atlas might help.
I do too. I'm grasping at straws as to why Snodgrass made this particular change and I'd like to hear other people's ideas.
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  #8  
Old 01-10-2012, 10:30 AM
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Orwn Acra Orwn Acra is offline
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The dangers of political correctness.
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  #9  
Old 01-10-2012, 10:31 AM
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Susan d.S. Susan d.S. is offline
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Maryann, thanks for another brilliant and thought-provoking analysis. A few responses:

[that] cap on Drummer [are] also gone.

My screen shows it capitalized in both versions.

about grammatical inversions and non-standard word choices:

Are we always right? I'm less than certain.

I can just hear us saying "forced for meter!!!" [/i]

I'm glad to see this question raised. It is possible to make a series of local corrections and thus homogenize a poem too much in the name of intelligibility and natural speech.

The uncustomary verbs, such as "west" contribute to the strange atmosphere in which everything except Hodge is alive.

I think, too, that "portion" (in addition to filling the meter) may have been preferred because "portion" has philosophical and theological associations---what our portion in life is, what we are served, and, of course, a life cut short.

I have the same feeling about "Hodge," it is a stumpy, earthy Anglo-Saxon sort of name, especially compared to the more poetic Celticism of "Vaughn," with its silent consonants.

That the puncuation is relatively unaltered is indeed interesting.

Thanks,
Susan

Last edited by Susan d.S.; 01-10-2012 at 10:43 AM.
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  #10  
Old 01-10-2012, 11:41 AM
Brian Watson Brian Watson is offline
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The decomposition loses some of the music:
'kopje' picks up 'Hodge'
'Wessex' picks up 'fresh' and 'bush'
'stars eternally' picks up 'strange-eyed constellations'

'breast and brain' is an attractive alliteration, whereas the alliteration and internal rhyme of 'become some tropic tree' are clumsy.
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