1
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.

2
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.

3
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.

Analysis, meaning and summary of the poem by

15 Comments

  1. Caleb Mauti says:

    In this poem, Whitman places the collective madness of war into the context of the common citizen’s lives. He shows how war can plough through society, disrupting its peace, tranquility, order, and harmony. He shows that chaos is the order of the day in war.
    Whitman is smart enough to evade mentioning the cause of the instability and the soldiers fighting the war. He cleary demonstrates that, the perils of war mostly affect the common man. He is the most affected.
    Analysis by Caleb Mauti.

  2. Cal Mauti says:

    In this poem, Whitman places the collective madness of war into the context of the common citizen’s lives. He shows how war can plough through society, disrupting its peace, tranquility, order, and harmony. He shows that chaos is the order of the day in war.
    Whitman is smart enough to evade mentioning the cause of the instability and the soldiers fighting the war. He Cleary shows that in war, it is the common man that has more to lose and most affected.
    Review by Ondieng’a Mauti Caleb.

  3. David Jameson says:

    Beat! Beat! Drums! The tite is showing the intensity of war and fighting and no one can escape the sounds of the drums. Walt Whitman wrote this poem during the civil war and this peom is about the battle of Bull Run.The poem is not about fighting for freedom or justice, but is to show what war really is. A life destroying mistake that has no purpose but to cause pain and misery.The “drums” and “bugles” are symbols of war because they were used in the procession into battle.”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?” This quote means that everyone is effected by the war..” While the war rages there can be “no happiness” or “any peace.” Is a quote that shows that Whitman prefers peace than war. Whitmans attitude in this poem it seems as though Whitman is in bloodlust, but suddenly changes to depression and unhappiness.The title increases intensity throughout the poem leading to the climax of “war!” The theme of this poem is war is more bad than good.

  4. mikayla dennis says:

    i love this poem and one of his other works called ‘o captain, my captain’… its an interesting poem about death and a fathers love. i love walt whitman and adger allen poe, and many others i cant name (be to long)

  5. Esther says:

    In this poem Whitman is talking about the battle of Bull Run. He is describing how the people of the North have to mobilize because of the war and they will never be the same again because the war dominates every aspect of their lives.

  6. Dan says:

    I think the strange nature of great work can be an openness to interpretation. Surely this poem has a war theme, but that doesn’t make the interpretation that the poem is urging people to wake up to life invalid. Whitman contains multitudes, he is his world, and while he can be the war, the war can also be his poetry, a ringing, messianic declamation. He sees the war, but is bigger than it. He can simultaneously rage against the war, without throwing in some political dig that would less the poem’s ability to transcend the war, and beat the drum himself for the bigger war of the spirit.

  7. Katie says:

    This a great poem. I would like to use it in my American Lit class but I need to find 5 literary devices. Can anyone help?

  8. Veronica says:

    In the first verse I think that it (the war) is to draw alls attention. In the second, I find that the war is tell you to stop what you are doing and to watch it. And the third could be about not allowing anyone to interrupt this great war that we had against ourselves.

  9. erica says:

    In this poem by walt whitman he is not encouraging a war for freedom or telling people to branch out and live a fuller life but he is rather tearing down the so called glory of war and showing it for what it really is- a home wreaking, life destroying, soul reaping mistake that serves no purpose but to cause pain and misery leaving in its wake empty places where young men once were. Whitman was a strong anti war poet who felt that war did nothing but destroy the earth and his use of the drums and bugles to sybolize the essence of war that leaves “no happiness” and is a “wild”,”shrill”, “fierce”, and “terrible” entity. This is a beautiful poem which decrys a torn nation and speaks a message of peace and the emptiness of war that holds true not only to its own era but also to future generations.

  10. cody hadley says:

    interesting, i intepreted this poem quite differently. i thought the beating of the drums was a message being sent to the monotonous commoners to tell them that they need to get away from their everyday life and live a little. A lot of things were going on in the 1800’s but still, don’t let that stop one from being free and just LIVING! but then again, i am horrible at interpreting any written form of material.

  11. Hazel says:

    I found this poem as a very interesting one. Though it’s full of emotions wherein he had talked about the beating of the drums, the sound of it makes your heart pound. every beat of the drum underlies every word of rythym and intensifies the situation while the soldiers were marching as the go along the churches and schools

  12. T. Chadwick says:

    This poem surely does evoke powerful emotions. The beating of the drums underlies every word, every thought, every rhythm, growing with intensity with each passing stanza. I could hear the snap of the snare as I pictured with Whitman the columns of soldiers growing in numbers as it passed through towns, past churches and schools, past merchants and mothers and children (whose husbands and fathers were surely compelled by patriotism and loyalty and the oncoming war to join the growing throng). And just as the drums echoed through EVERYTHING, reverberating even in the ears of the dead (who await the onslaught of newcomers, those who will inevitably fall victim to the ravages of war), the Civil War would filter through every aspect of life in the growing United States. Such growing pains were inevitable, for to stand for justice, the nation must fight those who would detract from freedom for all. I think Whitman, the Great Patriot, felt the war was necessary for the furthering of the ideals of democracy.

    Contrast the images in this poem with Whitman’s images in “Lilacs,” one of the poet’s grieving statements about Lincoln’s death, paradoxically combined with the renewal and growing opportunities in America. Instead of drums beating of death and marching on about the inevitability of war, the mourning song of the bird, the perfume of the lilacs, the mothers and children coming out of their homes witness of life and renewal and growth and freedom. For even though Lincoln, the Captain of captains, was dead, the Civil War was over (or at least drawing to a close) and the smoke began to clear and the sun shined again. America was enveloped in Spring.

  13. Terika says:

    i strongly disagree that this poem was so great! it sucks to me. Absolutely no meaning to me.

  14. brad says:

    This poem kicks but it is so powerful and shows the meaning of war what it really is

  15. H H Hughes says:

    Some have mistakenly assumed that Whitman wrote no irony, but I see both his poems “The Learned Astronomer” and “Beat!Beat!Drums” as dripping with irony. The first, the arrogance of mortal man before the infinite Creation, the latter, the picture of a trainload of dead soldiers forced to stand over the river unable to enter town and the hearses because of the celebrating crowd and war fever on Recruiting Day!

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