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Beat! Beat! Drums! Summary & Analysis
by Walt Whitman

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Walt Whitman, the most famous American poet of the 19th Century, published "Beat! Beat! Drums!" in 1861, shortly after the first major battle of the Civil War. The poem directly addresses the instruments of a military band, telling drums and bugle horns to raise the alarm of war. These instruments, the speaker says, should tear through society like a "ruthless force," making it impossible for everyday life to continue like normal in the midst of the fighting. In this sense, the poem is a call to arms and a rallying cry. But because the speaker acknowledges the devastating toll that violent conflict takes on society, the poem also highlights the deeply disruptive nature of war, ultimately demonstrating that everything grinds to a halt in the face of such catastrophic violence.

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