In the beginning, at least, Whitman believed in the good that this war would bring. Whitman’s poem Beat! Beat! Drums! “served as a kind of recruiting poem” (p. 1079) during the Civil War. The reader can see Whitman’s upbeat attitude even while he makes statements that do not seem to be very enticing. The way he punctuates “Beat! beat! drum! – blow! bugle! blow!” (1) essentially forces the reader to be excited about it. Though Whitman is saying “Leave not the bridegroom quiet – no happiness must he have now with his bride, nor the peaceful farmer any peace…” (5) the reader still feels this excitement. The call to arms is loud; it rings “over the traffic of cities – over the rumble of wheels in the streets…” (9) It will not be ignored by the talkers, singers, and lawyers in the city (12-13). The call to arms, this beating drum will not listen to the reasoning of any man. No, the call ignores “the timid… the weeper… the old man beseeching the young man… the child’s voice… the mother’s entreaties” (17-19). Similarly in First O Songs for a Prelude the reader can see Whitman’s enthusiasm about the upcoming war. He is proud of his city for “[leading] the rest to arms” (3). He seems excited that Manhattan “threw off the costumes of peace with indifferent ha...
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...buried him where he fell” (25-26). This last line hits the reader with its starkness. This was Whitman’s reality. He cared for soldiers who frequently died no matter what he did. During his time as a nurse Whitman is faced with the disillusioning realities of the war he was so excited about only a year before.
Through his poetry the reader can see Walt Whitman’s movement through being an excited citizen, an informed observer, and a heartbroken nurse. Whitman acknowledges this transition in The Wound Dresser,
“Arous’d and angry, I’d thought to beat the alarum, and urge relentless war,
But soon my fingers failed me, my face droop’d and I resign’d myself,
To sit by the wounded and soothe them, or silently watch the dead” (4-6)
Walt Whitman is one of the most well known poets and his poems in Drum Taps just prove that he is good enough to be remembered for a long time.
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