Drum-Taps

Walt Whitman 1819 (West Hills) – 1892 (Camden)




   Aroused and angry,
   I thought to beat the alarum, and urge relentless war;
   But soon my fingers fail'd me, my face droop'd, and I resign'd
         myself,
   To sit by the wounded and soothe them, or silently watch the dead.

Drum-Taps

   FIRST, O songs, for a prelude,
   Lightly strike on the stretch'd tympanum, pride and joy in my city,
   How she led the rest to arms--how she gave the cue,
   How at once with lithe limbs, unwaiting a moment, she sprang;
   (O superb! O Manhattan, my own, my peerless!
   O strongest you in the hour of danger, in crisis! O truer than
         steel!)
   How you sprang! how you threw off the costumes of peace with
         indifferent hand;
   How your soft opera-music changed, and the drum and fife were heard
         in their stead;
   How you led to the war, (that shall serve for our prelude, songs of
         soldiers,)
   How Manhattan drum-taps led.                                       10

   Forty years had I in my city seen soldiers parading;
   Forty years as a pageant--till unawares, the Lady of this teeming and
         turbulent city,
   Sleepless amid her ships, her houses, her incalculable wealth,
   With her million children around her--suddenly,
   At dead of night, at news from the south,
   Incens'd, struck with clench'd hand the pavement.

   A shock electric--the night sustain'd it;
   Till with ominous hum, our hive at day-break pour'd out its myriads.

   From the houses then, and the workshops, and through all the
         doorways,
   Leapt they tumultuous--and lo! Manhattan arming.                   20

   To the drum-taps prompt,
   The young men falling in and arming;
   The mechanics arming, (the trowel, the jack-plane, the blacksmith's
         hammer, tost aside with precipitation;)
   The lawyer leaving his office, and arming--the judge leaving the
         court;
   The driver deserting his wagon in the street, jumping down, throwing
         the reins abruptly down on the horses' backs;
   The salesman leaving the store--the boss, book-keeper, porter, all
         leaving;
   Squads gather everywhere by common consent, and arm;
   The new recruits, even boys--the old men show them how to wear their
         accoutrements--they buckle the straps carefully;
   Outdoors arming--indoors arming--the flash of the musket-barrels;
   The white tents cluster in camps--the arm'd sentries around--the
         sunrise cannon, and again at sunset;                         30
   Arm'd regiments arrive every day, pass through the city, and embark
         from the wharves;
   (How good they look, as they tramp down to the river, sweaty, with
         their guns on their shoulders!
   How I love them! how I could hug them, with their brown faces, and
         their clothes and knapsacks cover'd with dust!)
   The blood of the city up--arm'd! arm'd! the cry everywhere;
   The flags flung out from the steeples of churches, and from all the
         public buildings and stores;
   The tearful parting--the mother kisses her son--the son kisses his
         mother;
   (Loth is the mother to part--yet not a word does she speak to detain
         him;)
   The tumultuous escort--the ranks of policemen preceding, clearing the
         way;
   The unpent enthusiasm--the wild cheers of the crowd for their
         favorites;
   The artillery--the silent cannons, bright as gold, drawn along,
         rumble lightly over the stones;                              40
   (Silent cannons--soon to cease your silence!
   Soon, unlimber'd, to begin the red business;)
   All the mutter of preparation--all the determin'd arming;
   The hospital service--the lint, bandages, and medicines;
   The women volunteering for nurses--the work begun for, in earnest--no
         mere parade now;
   War! an arm'd race is advancing!--the welcome for battle--no turning
         away;
   War! be it weeks, months, or years--an arm'd race is advancing to
         welcome it.

   Mannahatta a-march!--and it's O to sing it well!
   It's O for a manly life in the camp!
   And the sturdy artillery!                                          50
   The guns, bright as gold--the work for giants--to serve well the
         guns:
   Unlimber them! no more, as the past forty years, for salutes for
         courtesies merely;
   Put in something else now besides powder and wadding.

   And you, Lady of Ships! you Mannahatta!
   Old matron of this proud, friendly, turbulent city!
   Often in peace an
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Submitted on May 13, 2011

Modified on May 01, 2023

3:20 min read
558

Quick analysis:

Scheme ABCXD XAEXFGXHXXDXID JKAXAXX LF MXJ XJFXMXJXXJXNAXMXXFHIKXNMXXXXXMONXXXXXJPXXJOEL XXAMPBAE CAG
Closest metre Iambic pentameter
Characters 4,394
Words 649
Stanzas 8
Stanza Lengths 5, 14, 7, 2, 3, 45, 8, 3

Walt Whitman

Walter "Walt" Whitman was an American poet, essayist and journalist. more…

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