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Friday, March 04, 2016

Poetry Friday--"Beat! Beat! Drums!"

I used to have a friend who was fond of saying whenever March rolled around, "March 4th, it's the only day that's a command!" And so, in honor of this day, and a long-ago friendship, I'll share a commanding poem by Walt Whitman:

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, 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.

Found in The Poems of Walt Whitman [811 WHI].

Whitman's use of dashes and short phrases adds to the power of the poem in its echo of drum beats and the snappiness of a command. And, in its ending, Whitman gives us a not-so-subtle intimation of future drums beating out a funeral march.

Linda at Teacher Dance is our host for today's Poetry Friday Round-Up.

"Follow the Drum" by Frank Dadd, courtesy The Athenaeum.


  1. "March 4th ...the only day that's a command!" I love it!...Thank you for the complementary Whitman poem. Scary stuff: "Mind not the old man beseeching the young man, Let not the child’s voice be heard, nor the mother’s entreaties," I respect that your PF posts are always sophisticated/top notch in content and insights. Thank you; I always learn so much! God bless you.

  2. Makes me wonder where this poem emanated, from something Whitman saw, or experienced? It does make me want to read it aloud, it is so emphatic. Thanks, Diane.

  3. Diane, march forth March 4th with your announcement of a Whitman poem!

  4. A perfect poem to March 4th with!