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Walt Whitman

(31 May 1819 - 26 March 1892 / New York / United States)

Beat! Beat! Drums!



BEAT! beat! drums!--Blow! bugles! blow!
Through the windows--through doors--burst like a ruthless force,
Into the solemn church, and scatter the congregation;
Into the school where the scholar is studying;
Leave not the bridegroom quiet--no happiness must he have now with
his bride;
Nor the peaceful farmer any peace, plowing his field or gathering his
grain;
So fierce you whirr and pound, you drums--so shrill you bugles blow.


Beat! beat! drums!--Blow! bugles! blow!
Over the traffic of cities--over the rumble of wheels in the streets:
Are beds prepared for sleepers at night in the houses? No sleepers
must sleep in those beds; 10
No bargainers' bargains by day--no brokers or speculators--Would they
continue?
Would the talkers be talking? would the singer attempt to sing?
Would the lawyer rise in the court to state his case before the
judge?
Then rattle quicker, heavier drums--you bugles wilder blow.


Beat! beat! drums!--Blow! bugles! blow!
Make no parley--stop for no expostulation;
Mind not the timid--mind not the weeper or prayer;
Mind not the old man beseeching the young man;
Let not the child's voice be heard, nor the mother's entreaties;
Make even the trestles to shake the dead, where they lie awaiting the
hearses, 20
So strong you thump, O terrible drums--so loud you bugles blow.

Submitted: Tuesday, December 31, 2002

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Comments about this poem (Beat! Beat! Drums! by Walt Whitman )

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  • Robert Howard (11/2/2006 9:47:00 AM)

    One of Whitman's greatest masterpieces! It places the collective madness of war into the context of the lives that are ploughed into them.

    There are many musical settings of this text but the one by Ralph Vaughan Williams stands out in my mind for capturing the soul of this monument. (Report) Reply

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