Comment on the character old Kaspar in Robert Southey’s poem After Blenheim.
Old Kaspar is a representative of common stereotype people who glorify war without a reason. He is conservative and wants to stick to the old ideals. He is complacent by nature as he shows his ignorance towards the devastation caused by war. He also lacks curiosity unlike his grandchildren and never wants to know the purpose of war and what good it brought to mankind.
In Southey’s poem After Blenheim Kaspar is presented as a representative of the ordinary common people who believe in the claims of authority. He is a common farmer who ploughs the field and grows crops.
Warmongers have always glorified war to support their own cause by motivating youths to join the army and “sacrifice” their lives for the nation. Parents too are inspired to feel proud of their dead sons as they died a glorious death for their country. It is a propaganda that is indoctrinated in the common people. Kaspar belongs to that group of people who believe in such romantic ideals regarding war and feel proud for the “famous victory” of the English army. He repeatedly utters:
‘It was a famous victory’
Though it came at the expense of thousands of lives and he himself was a sufferer, he feels that these things happen at every famous victory.
But things like that, you know, must be
At every famous victory
He even has no reason to support his claims of a “great victory”.
‘Why that I cannot tell,’ said he,
‘But ’twas a famous victory.’
Again, Kaspar is symbolic of the old people with their old beliefs. They are afraid to think against the authorities, against the set ideals. They are rather conservative and choose to
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Thus Kaspar can be viewed as a perfect foil to his grandchildren who represent new ideas, out of the box thinking and questioning things. That’s why they ask their grandfather:
‘Why, ’twas a very wicked thing!’
Said little Wilhelmine.
‘But what good came of it at last?’
Quoth little Peterkin.
To conclude, the poet has depicted a character like old Kaspar to convey his anti-war message by showing us the irony of how common people who themselves are war victims glorify war instead of questioning its validity.