Walt Whitman's 'Beat ! Beat ! Drum !'

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Walt Whitman was an unconventional poet. He developed free-verse poetry and wrote about sex and other ‘obscene’ topics. Perhaps his most interesting poems are those he wrote about war. During the Civil War Whitman was a nurse. One would expect war to be an important theme in Whitman’s poetry and indeed it is. He wrote a series of poems titled Drum Taps. Through these poems we can see Whitman’s progression as an enthusiastic citizen, an enlightened observer, and an anguished war nurse. 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…show more content…
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 hand” (7) as though his city was not about to send men off to a bloody war. He describes who falls to arms at the call of the drums. There are the “young men… mechanics… lawyer… driver… and salesmen” (22-26) who drop their tools and
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