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Devil in the Drum question


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What does the expression mean? I see there was an expression regarding the Devil's Tattoo which involved drumming once fingers on a surface. Have heard artillery fire be described as a drumming sound. One option is it deals with Devil being behind modern warfare. 

 

Well there it is. If anyone is aware, would love to hear. 

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Steven Broomfield

I always assumed it referred to the use of drums to recruits ('drum up recruits') and the associated connection with military recruitment, life and battle: the Devil drumming soldiers, eventually, to death.

Edited by Steven Broomfield
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Liz in Eastbourne

Yes, that's certainly the impression given by J F Lucy's autobiographical account, 'There's a Devil in the Drum'.  He gives that title to the first chapter too, and it's about recruitment to his Irish regiment. But he just assumes everyone knows what it means.

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19 hours ago, Steven Broomfield said:

I always assumed it referred to the use of drums to recruits ('drum up recruits') and the associated connection with military recruitment, life and battle: the Devil drumming soldiers, eventually, to death.

Beating the Devil's tattoo?

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The Devil induces people to do that which they should not. I have always understood Lucy's title in that sense - the Devil worked his way through the recruiting drum, and induced Lucy to do something he should not have done. Remember, he and his brother essentially ran away from home.

There is also an obvious aspect of regret. Lucy's "devilish" impulse to join the British Army got his younger brother killed, and some extreme hardship for himself.

 

It may also be relevant that there is also a very well known Irish song in which the Devil joins the British Army (seriously).

Edited by Wexflyer
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ilkley remembers

Possibly a mis-quotation taken from Shakespeare's Henry IV (part 1). In Act 4 Scene 2 Sir John Falstaff is taking a group of recruits to Prince Hal (later Henry V) to take part in the Battle of Shrewsbury. Falstaff and Bardolph stop near Coventry and rather disparaging comments are made about the quality of the recruits to which Falstaff replies;

 

"If I be not ashamed of my soldiers, I am a soused gurnet. I have misused the King’s press damnably. I have got, in exchange of a hundred and fifty soldiers, three hundred and odd pounds. I press me none but good householders, yeomen’s sons; inquire me out contracted bachelors, such as had been asked twice on the banns; such a commodity of warm slaves—as had as lief hear the devil as a drum, such as fear the report of a caliver worse than a struck fowl or a hurt wild duck. I pressed me none but such toasts-and-butter, with hearts in their bellies no bigger than pins' heads..."

 

Interestingly, the comment is in fact about cowardice, which is a bit rich coming from Falstaff,  and the the type of men who are prepared to fight in battle. Later in the same scene in excusing his actions in recruiting such a poor selection of manhood he memorably exclaims ".... good enough to toss; food for powder, food for powder. They’ll fill a pit as well as better. Tush, man, mortal men, mortal men."

 

 

Edited by ilkley remembers
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12 hours ago, Wexflyer said:

There is also an obvious aspect of regret. Lucy's "devilish" impulse to join the British Army got his younger brother killed, and some extreme hardship for himself.



Your interpretation may well be correct. But as regards regret (in his joining the army) - that did not come across to

me. The war certainly was a traumatic for him and it sounds like he indured a nervous breakdown. But near the end of the book he wrote with obvious pride in army life and his comrades. He spoke of the stoicism of the NCO and his admiration of same. He also stayed in the army post war. 

While he did  run away from home, it was a broken home. His mother was dead and the relationship of both boys with their father had broken down. There was violent incidents. 
 

Jervis

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Liz in Eastbourne
13 hours ago, Wexflyer said:

The Devil induces people to do that which they should not. I have always understood Lucy's title in that sense - the Devil worked his way through the recruiting drum, and induced Lucy to do something he should not have done. Remember, he and his brother essentially ran away from home.

There is also an obvious aspect of regret. Lucy's "devilish" impulse to join the British Army got his younger brother killed, and some extreme hardship for himself.

 

It may also be relevant that there is also a very well known Irish song in which the Devil joins the British Army (seriously).

 

 

I'm not sure it is relevant but thanks for mentioning it.

 

CHORUS:
Some say the devil is dead, the devil is dead, the devil is dead,
Some say the devil is dead and buried in Killarney.
More say he rose again, more say he rose again, more say he rose again,
And joined the British army.

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Black Maria
2 hours ago, Jervis said:



Your interpretation may well be correct. But as regards regret (in his joining the army) - that did not come across to

me. 
 

Jervis

Me neither , i doubt he would have stayed on in the British army after the war or rejoined in WW2 if he had any regrets . It looks to me like he was proud to serve in it .

 

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Liz in Eastbourne

Without knowing exactly what expression Lucy was thinking of, I took it to be a mixed-feelings sort of thing, as with many common expressions involving the devil - the draw of life in the army, the danger and the camaraderie of the life when you were in it that kept you going against all the odds, the way you missed it if you left. It would be too simple to say he had no regrets, but they did not overpower the other feelings.

 

Liz (whose Irish great-grandfather left a hard farm-labouring life in the mid-19th century to join the British army, followed by his sons and grandsons)

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Idly tapping your fingers is called in some parts "drumming up the devil", similar perhaps to the phrase, "the devil makes work for idle hands".

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David Filsell

I have never thought much about the book's title, simply thought it as an outstanding book.

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On 15/10/2020 at 02:18, Jervis said:



Your interpretation may well be correct. But as regards regret (in his joining the army) - that did not come across to

me. The war certainly was a traumatic for him and it sounds like he indured a nervous breakdown. But near the end of the book he wrote with obvious pride in army life and his comrades. He spoke of the stoicism of the NCO and his admiration of same. He also stayed in the army post war. 

While he did  run away from home, it was a broken home. His mother was dead and the relationship of both boys with their father had broken down. There was violent incidents. 
 

Jervis

 

I don't think this is black/white or incompatible. I see no issue with him simultaneously being proud of his comrades, yet also regretful of the circumstances of why he enlisted, and of the trauma and loss he and so many others had to endure.

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I think what some folks are missing here is the Catholic aspect. The Devil is the great seducer, He who lures people to their doom via false promises. That is what leaps to mind with Lucy's work. It is an interpretation that simply must have occurred to Lucy.

Edited by Wexflyer
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Steven Broomfield

That would be an ecumenical matter.

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hahahha. As Sir Frank Finlay quipped in The Three Muskeeters," Something to do with religion I suppose". Thanks for the input folks. 

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