The two poems that I am going to compare are “The Drum” by John Scott and “Vitai Lampada” by Henry Newbolt. The poems have greatly contrasting views of war. “The Drum” has a negative perception of war whereas “Vitai Lampada” portrays a very positive image of war. A drum is a musical instrument that was used during war times to recruit men to sign up and join the army. The drum would be banged to get people to notice that the army was recruiting outside, people would then leave their houses and ‘sign up’ in the street.
The first line of the poem tells the reader about the poet’s view on war, “I hate that drum’s discordant sound”. Discordant – meaning disagreeing, at variance in respect to sounds. The word “hate” meaning to dislike intensely used as the second word in this poem, showing the strength of the feelings about war felt by the writer John Scott. The beginning of “Vitai Lampada” is very different to the beginning of “The Drum”.
There’s a breathless hush in the Close tonight – Ten to make and the match to win”. There is no strong negative or positive emotive word like the word “hate” used at the start of “The Drum”. The word “Close” is given a capital letter, implying that it might be the name of a stadium or pitch, not just the literal meaning of the word “close” – an enclosed space. “Vitia Lampada” starts by describing the tense atmosphere of boys playing cricket “ten to make and the match to win”.
Vitia Lampada goes on to say “And it’s not for the sake of a ribboned coat” the ribbon may be the prize for wining, similar to the blue ribbon awarded to winners of competitions today. This would be pinned to the winner’s, or winning team’s clothes or “coat” in this case. The second line of the poem “The Drum” personifies the drum. “I hate that drums discordant sound, parading round, and round, and round,” a drum cannot physically parade, it needs to be carried by a human, but there is no mention of a human controlling this drum any where in this poem.
In the third line of “The Drum”, it says “to thoughtless youth it pleasure yields” meaning that to young boys whom are either unintelligent, or just don’t know the severity of war, and therefore simply have not thought about the decision to sign up to war. “pleasure yields” the boys and men signing up for war are pleased to be signing up, people see them as heroes, fighting for their country, but by saying that “to thoughtless youths it pleasure yields” implies that to everyone else, the sound of the drum does not yield pleasure.
The last line of the first stanza of “Vitai Lampada”, ” ‘Play up! play up! And play the game! ‘” is repeated later on in the poem at the end of each stanza. The first time ” ‘Play up! play up! and play the game! ‘ ” is seen, it is referring to the boys playing the game of cricket. The second time it is seen, (at the end of the second stanza) it is used as a chant to “rally” the ranks, rally – to attempt to improve morale and efforts of the ranks, ranks – groups of soldiers fighting together.
The last time that ” ‘Play up! play up! and play the game! ” is seen, is at the end of the third and final stanza after “beat through life like a torch in flame and falling, fling to the host behind” which when broken down and analysed means, “beat through life” lived their lives like a “torch in flame” (a burning stick), and in dying (“falling”) “fling” or throw, “to the host behind” possibly meaning the next generation, or possibly meaning the other people in his rank that are also running into war. The line ” ‘Play up! play up! and play the game! ‘ ” is emotive language. It is used to make the reader think about what these men are sacrificing for their country.
It gives the impression that war is just a game that all good men should play, just like cricket. “The Drum” uses similar repetition but not of such a triumphant sounding phrase. “I hate that drum’s discordant sound parading round, and round, and round” is repeated at the beginning of each of the 2 stanzas. In this way and a few others, the poems are similar, but only similar in the layout and devices, they are not similar in context. For instance, both poems use repetition of a phrase to make it stand out. Both poems use alliteration.
At the end of the first stanza of “The Drum” it says “to march and fight, and fall, in foreign lands”, using alliteration of the letter ‘f’ to make the point stand out. “Vitai Lampada” uses alliteration also, “his captains hand on his shoulder smote” using alliteration of the letter ‘s’. Both poems use very descriptive language, which, in some cases describe quite graphically the effects of war. From “The Drum”, “mangled limb and dying groans, widows’ tears and orphans moans”, mangled meaning damaged severely. From “Vitai Lampada”, “The sand of the desert is sodden red… with the wreck of a square that broke”.
Sodden red” referring to the blood spilled, “a square that broke” referring to the military formation, ‘a square’, that was defeated. The poems are also similar as they both rhyme and have a regular meter, apart from the last line of each stanza of “The Drum” I do not know the exact date when these poems were written, but if I did it might give some clue as to why they are so greatly contrasting. They may also be different because of the writer’s personal encounters with war. John Scott (writer of “The Drum”) may have been to fight in a war and seen the devastating effects, whereas Henry Newbolt (writer of “Vitai Lampada”) may not have.