When a country is at war it is the common people who suffer. In Walt Whitman’spoem, “Beat! Beat! Drums,” the speaker signifies the sounds of war. Thespeaker, listening to the banging of war drums and shrill sounds of bugles,relates the interruption these war sounds have on the harmony of people’slives.
Whitman uses the sounds of drums as an audible image to show its effectson the common people. Whitman uses two types of imagery to express the coldindirect and direct effects of war. Whitman using the loud banging of drums andthe blows of bugles creates a war atmosphere throughout the whole poem. Hebrings in the sounds of war at the beginning and end of every section to ensurethe reader has a feeling that the drums are never ending.
For example, Whitmanstarts the first section with: “Beat! beat! drums ? blow bugles blow”, andends the first section with a feeling that the drums are only getting louder:”So fierce you whirr and pound you drums ? so shrill you bugles blow. Whitman writes of how the war is felt on two different levels: one as acommunity, and the other as personal. Using imagery, the sounds travel”through the windows-through doors-burst like a ruthless force,” as if thedrums and bugles are shattering through the homes of the common people. In thefirst section Whitman shows of how the sounds of war effect the personal livesof the common people.
Whitman uses imagery to show how the drums and buglesinterrupt everyday life. This is evident in the lines: “Into the solemnchurch, and scatter the congregation Into the school where the scholar isstudying; Leave not the bridegroom quiet-no happiness must he have with hisbride, Nor the peaceful farmer any peace, ploughing his field or gathering hisgrain,” These four lines expressed by Whitman have an underlying meaning ineach image he presents. Whitman uses the image of a “solemn church” to showhow people must go through each day, with an empty feeling in their souls,knowing their lives’ are at risk. Using the image of a “school” beingdisrupted; Whitman is able to express the idea that during a time of war noeducation is able to take place. His underlying meaning, having no education ina child’s life only leads to an uneducated group of people in the future.
Again Whitman is able to create an image of how war effects peoples’ livesboth directly and indirectly. “Leave not the bridegroom quiet- no happinessmust he have with his bride,” Whitman uses the image of a “bridegroom”leaving his wife to show how young men during this time are called off to dutyto defend their country or side. The underlying meaning of this is that newfamilies are unable to be started because of the separation of husbands andwives. “Nor the peaceful farmer any peace,” Whitman uses the image of afarmer to express the idea that no food will be grown because of war takingplace. People’s everyday work life is effected by this war only creatingproblems for the future. Whitman uses wonderful images to show how the waraffects peoples’ jobs.
“No bargainers by day- no brokers orspeculators-would/ they continue?” The speaker expresses how even the richpersons of the community cannot carry on with their jobs. Whitman’s underlyingmeaning is that because of the war an economic depression might happen in thefuture. Whitman takes every section and turns them into a part of the war. Eachsection is how a war would take over a particular community. In the firstsection Whitman talks of all quiet and peaceful places; “church”,”school”, and “field. ” These show how the drums are easy to disruptthese calming places.
Then Whitman finishes the first section as the drums aregetting louder or the war is getting bigger, “So fierce you whirr and poundyour drums- so shrill you bugles blow. ” This line states that the speaker canstart to feel the sounds of the drums and not only hear them. The second sectionthe speaker knows that after a war hit the quiet aspects of life it takes on thenoisy. The second section shows how the drums are so loud they can be heardthrough large cities, “Over the traffic of cities- over the rumble of wheelsin the streets;” this shows how the war has evolved to something that not onlydisrupts churches and schools but something that disrupts whole cities. Thespeaker then uses good images of jobs in the big city to further his notion thatthat war is taking over all aspects of the common people’s lives. “Would thetalkers be talking? Would a singer attempt to sing? / Would the lawyer rise incourt to state his case before the judge?” Whitman uses a sense of sarcasm inthese two lines.
He is stating would these people continue on with their liveseven though they have this terrible feeling disrupting their day. The speakerfinishes off the second section with the drums and bugles getting louder andheavier, “then rattle quicker, heavier drums-you bugles wilder blow. ” In thethird section, Whitman gets into the feelings of the drums and the drive behindthe war. The next few lines indicate: “Make no parley — stop for noexpostulation, Mind not the timid — mind not the weeper or prayer, Mind not theold man beseeching the young man, Let not the child’s voice be heard, nor themother’s entreaties,” Whitman uses a sense of sarcasm in these four lines.
Make no “parley” or truces and keep fighting even if you are ruiningeveryday life. Whitman is trying to express the fact that the war has no desireto stop and will keep on going until it has to. Who cares about the “timid”or the weak, who cares if people are in “prayer” to stop the war; the warwill keep going and people will have to keep their lives on hold. Whitman usesan “old” man and a “young” man to show that the war takes on all kindsof people and affects every age group.
Whitman uses a great amount of sarcasm inthe line: “Let not the child’s voice be heard, nor the mother’sentreaties,” he tries to get the point across that the drums will stop for noone and the war will keep going until its resolved. Whitman uses wonderfulimagery to show the cold terrors of war. This poem “Beat! Beat! Drums” is apoem to show the horrible effects of war. War not only has negative effects onthe common people but negative effects on the future.