Decomposition - Poem Essay

Decomposition - Poem Essay-50
Thus, the presence of dying bodies or of corpses in Victorian poems is always numerically limited, linguistically camouflaged and textually contained.

Thus, the presence of dying bodies or of corpses in Victorian poems is always numerically limited, linguistically camouflaged and textually contained.

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Hardy’s battlefield closely resembles a wasteland of physical and spiritual desolation, where the hollow noises of artillery resound on a surface as barren as the eve of the battle, but also as crowded with dead bodies as the day after.

The text hinges on the semantic field of decomposition, no longer conceived in the traditional meaning of pastoral regeneration, but rather as the disfigurement and progressive annihilation of the human being. Along with the concept of deformation, here the writer hints at the concept of war as a process of levelling and dispersal of the soldiers’ individuality.

The object of this analysis is a section of eleven texts composed on the occasion of the Boer War of 1899-1901, and later included in Hardy’s second collection, Hardy is writing in the wake of the Victorian tradition, in which poets like Tennyson (and subsequently Kipling) treat the theme of death on the battlefield by using a wide range of metaphors and periphrases, while seldom actually treating it as a violent and brutalizing event.

The approach of the Victorian poet, in general, is to keep a distance between language and object, and even when the poems are not in the least propagandistic, they still remain aloof from the matter-of-factness of fighting and dying in battle.

Even though Hardy’s war poems are scattered over two collections and range from the late Victorian age to the eve of Modernism, they do not reflect the climate of justification and glorification of war of the imperialist age.

On the contrary, this reading of a sequence of war poems aims to show how Hardy utterly divests warfare of its glorious imperialistic connotations, in order to uncover its core of folly and waste.

The silence of the guns is superseded by the final coming of haunting “voices” (25), whose metonymic identity calls back the absence of the beloved.

After an epigrammatic poem on the affixing of the lists of killed and wounded—“At the War Office, London”, where death in war is mercilessly defined as “scheduled slaughter” (8)—, the text “A Christmas Ghost-Story” enacts the first instance of death seen as the physical process of decomposition.

To give just one example of this kind of imagery, we can read some lines from Tennyson’s “The Charge of the Light Brigade”, written in 1854, during the Crimean War: “Boldly they rode and well,/ Into the jaws of Death,/ Into the mouth of Hell/ Rode the six hundred.”.

In attempting to express war as a poetic theme, the Victorians draw on the idioms and representational techniques inherited from a certain rhetoric of heroism to be found in some of the Romantic poets (Byron’s oriental romances, for example).


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