Beat! Beat! Drums!

Beat! Beat! Drums!

by Walt Whitman

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, ploughing 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,
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,
So strong you thump O terrible drums—so loud you bugles blow.

Summary of Beat! Beat! Drums!

  • Popularity of “Beat! Beat! Drums!”: Walt Whitman, a great American poet, wrote ‘Beat! Beat! Drums!’. It is one of the famous narrative poems about war. It was first published on the 28th of September in 1861. The poem reflects that when a country is at war, it is the people who suffer the most. It also illustrates how it affects every sphere of society.
  • “Beat! Beat! Drums!” As a Representative of Sorrow: This poem is about the war. The speaker narrates what happens to the people when a war breaks out. He starts this piece with a command. He issues instructions to beat the drums loudly that they disturb everyone’s peace, just like war transforms a society. He wants the music to approach every corner of the state, including the church, school, the house, the courtroom, and the city full of traffic, implying the brutality of war reaches everyone. He also describes how the loud sound cuts through the busy streets of the city. It keeps people focused and drawing out the sound of singers, shoppers, conversations—encouraging the instrument to continue their jobs in every situation, play loudly to shake the dead souls. The poet also highlights the aftermath of war.
  • Major Themes in “Beat! Beat! Drums!”: Warfare, people’s reaction, and death are the major themes of the poem. The poet explains how wars destroy every segment of society. He commands the drums to produce their music so loud that they should shake the world and even the dead. The cry of war screams in the text, illustrating the reaction of the people toward it. The wars bring death and destruction to the world and leave a dark and gloomy memory for future generations.

Analysis of Literary Devices Used in “Beat! Beat! Drums!”

Literary devices are used to connect readers with the text. Their use brings richness to the text and makes the readers understand the hidden meanings. Walt Whitman has also made this poem superb by using figurative language. Here is the analysis of some literary devices used in this poem.

  1. Assonance: Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds in the same line. For example, the sound of /i/ in “ploughing his field or gathering his grain,” and the sound of /ee/ in “Beat! beat! drums!—blow! bugles! blow!”
  2. Anaphora: It refers to the repetition of a word or expression in the first part of some verses. For example, “Beat! beat! drums!—blow! bugles! blow!” in all stanzas to show his excitement and importance of music.
  3. Alliteration: Alliteration is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line in quick succession. For example, the sound of /b/ in “No bargainers’ bargains by day—no brokers or speculators” and the sound of /p/ in “Nor the peaceful farmer any peace, ploughing his field or gathering his grain”.
  4. Consonance: Consonance is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line such as the sound of /l/ in “Then rattle quicker, heavier drums—you bugles wilder blow” and the sound of /f/ in “Over the traffic of cities—over the rumble of wheels in the streets;”
  5. Imagery: Imagery is used to make readers perceive things involving their five senses. For example, “Beat! beat! drums!—blow! bugles! blow”, “Then rattle quicker, heavier drums—you bugles wilder blow” and “Leave not the bridegroom quiet—no happiness must he have now with his bride.”
  6. Rhetorical Question: Rhetorical question is a question that is not asked to receive an answer; it is just posed to make the point clear. For example,

“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?”

  1. Symbolism: Symbolism is a use of symbols to signify ideas and qualities by giving them symbolic meanings different from their literal meanings. Here beating of drums symbolizes fear and sorrow.

Analysis of Poetic Devices Used in “Beat! Beat! Drums!”

Poetic and literary devices are the same, but a few are used only in poetry. Here is the analysis of some of the poetic devices used in this poem.

  1. Free Verse: Free Verse is a type of poetry that does not contain patterns of rhyme or meter. This is a free-verse poem with no strict rhyme or meter.
  2. Repetition: There is a repetition of the verse “Beat! beat! drums!—blow! bugles! blow!”,“ which has created a musical quality in the poem.
  3. Refrain: The lines that are repeated at some distance in the poems are called refrain. The verse, “Beat! beat! drums!—blow! bugles! blow” is repeated with the same words. It has become a refrain.
  4. Stanza: A stanza is a poetic form of some lines. There are three stanzas in this poem, with each comprises of eight verses.

Quotes to be Used

The lines stated below are useful when talking about any ceremony one has witnessed in the past.

“Beat! beat! drums!—blow! bugles! blow!
Through the windows—through doors—burst like a ruthless force,
Into the solemn church, and scatter the congregation.”