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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
  To sit by the wounded and soothe them, or silently watch the dead.


  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
  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
  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
  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
  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
  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
  (Loth is the mother to part--yet not a word does she speak to detain
  The tumultuous escort--the ranks of policemen preceding, clearing the
  The unpent enthusiasm--the wild cheers of the crowd for their
  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
  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
  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

3:20 min read

Walt Whitman

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

All Walt Whitman poems | Walt Whitman Books

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    "Drum-Taps" Poetry.com. STANDS4 LLC, 2021. Web. 18 May 2021. <https://www.poetry.com/poem/38000/drum-taps>.

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