Walt Whitman’s poem “Beat! Beat! Drums!” is divided into three stanzas, each of seven verses. The poem was composed in free verse and contains many stylistic devices such as language, repetition, alliteration, metaphors, and onomatopoeia, among other literary devices. The poem’s first stanza begins with the lines “Bang! Beat! Drums! —Blast! Bugles! Blow!” (Whitman, Walt). The speaker in the poem directs that they be played loudly enough to break through doors and windows in various locations. Mainly he imagines that noise from the church is interrupting couples who want some privacy, scholar trying to stuffy, and farmers working hard in the field. The poem attempts to express the reaction of the northern side during the Civil War following the attack on Fort Sumter. Primarily, the poet feels that the war was not necessary and the drums should wake the dead.
Importantly, the poet uses the drums to symbolise the civil. The artist compares the aggressive sound of the drums to the sound of explosions and guns the soldiers use at war. Even though the setting of the poem is not a war zone, the author makes efficient use of the sound of the drums to remind the reader of what to expect in times of war. For instance, in line two “burst like a ruthless force”, the words makes a clear connection between the violence experienced during periods of war and the sound of the instruments. The use of repetition is evident in the poem from stanza one. Every verse begins with the words “Beat! Beat! Drums! —Blow! Bugles! Blow!” (Whitman, Walt). The repetition of the first line in every stanza brings out the sense of patriotism as bugles and drums are mainly used during times of war as a battle cry and to direct the troops.
Whitman uses poem throughout the poem, for instance in stanza two line two “Over the traffic of cities—over the rumble of wheels in the streets.” The artist uses this line to give the audience a mental image of sound that is travelling over the cities and can be heard by everyone. Additionally, line 7 stanza one “So fierce you whirr …….shrill you bugles blow,” tells the reader that the standard calls to arms during the war are not something that is liked, but it should be feared for its uncompassionate nature (Whitman, Walt). Similarly, the use of “whirr and pound” in the line gives the drums more apple and ferocity to the reader. Additionally, the poem makes efficient use of figurative language through onomatopoeia and alliteration. The words “Beat! Beat! Blow! Blow!” at the beginning of every stanza emphasises the loud sound and effect of the drums. Through this style, the reader can feel the power of the instrument over the people. Alliteration in the poem comes through the words “Blow! Bugles! Blow!” This creates a lasting effect on the mind of the reader.
The poem is set during the Civil War, and the author is describing the events that took place at the time and the effect they had on people and society. Whitman wrote the poem as a patriotic of the north to rally people for war. However, the tone makes the song seem like a consequence of war rather than a gathering for war. The song makes efficient use of imagery, figurative language, symbolism, and repletion to pass it message apparently. Such, stylistic devices creates an image on the mind of the reader.
Whitman, Walt. “Beat! Beat! Drums! By Walt Whitman”. Poetry Foundation, 2017, https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems-and-poets/poems/detail/45469.