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About this Item

Title: Beat! Beat! Drums!

Creator: Walt Whitman

Date: September 24, 1861

Whitman Archive ID: per.00055

Source: Harper's Weekly 5 (28 September 1861): 623. Our transcription is based on a digital image of an original issue. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the periodical poems, see our statement of editorial policy.

Contributors to digital file: Elizabeth Lorang and Susan Belasco

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Beat! beat! drums!—Blow! bugles! blow!
Through the windows—through the doors—burst like a force
of armed men,
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;
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—and bugles wilder
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 en-
treaties. Recruit! recruit!
Make the very trestles shake under the dead, where they
lie in their shrouds awaiting the hearses.
So strong you thump, O terrible drums—so loud you bu-
gles blow.


1. Although dated 28 September 1861, the issue of Harper's Weekly featuring Whitman's "Beat! Beat! Drums!" actually appeared one week earlier, on 21 September 1861. See Sculley Bradley and Harold W. Blodgett, ed., Leaves of Grass: A Norton Critical Edition (New York: W. W. Norton, 1973) and Ted Genoways, Walt Whitman and the Civil War: America's Poet During the Lost Years of 1860–1862 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2010). The poem also appeared on 21 September in the weekly newspaper the New York Leader, though it, too, was dated 28 September 1861. The poem was reprinted in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle on 23 September 1861 and the Boston Daily Evening Transcript on 24 September 1861. The Brooklyn Daily Eagle printing includes the attribution, "From Harper's Weekly." In the following weeks, the poem appeared in numerous other newspapers throughout the United States. Whitman included the poem, with slight revision, in Drum-Taps (1865). [back]


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