Study Guide

Beat! Beat! Drums! Summary

By Walt Whitman

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Beat! Beat! Drums! Summary

When the poem begins, our speaker urges drums and bugles to play their music. And to play it so loudly and powerfully that it bursts through doors and windows like an armed force, into churches and schools. He urges the instruments to not even leave newlyweds or farmers in peace. Harsh, speaker!

Then, as if on repeat, the speaker again urges the drums and bugles to play. This time, he describes their sound, hoping it will reach across the city. The music should keep people from sleep at night, keep them from their work during the day. (This is no sleep sounds track.) If people try to carry on with their daily business, the instruments should play still louder and wilder – don't let them get away with that.

In a shocking turn of events, our speaker again urges the music to play powerfully, this time specifying that it should not stop for any conversation or explanation. He urges the instruments not to pay any attention to people praying, weeping, or beseeching and tells the music to recruit men into the army, regardless of what their children or mothers might say. Finally, he urges the instruments to shake even the supporting beams that lie under the dead. Well, we definitely get the point.

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