English poetry

Poems in English


Drum-Taps

1
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.

2
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.

3
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;
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;
(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.

4
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!
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.

5
And you, Lady of Ships! you Mannahatta!
Old matron of this proud, friendly, turbulent city!
Often in peace and wealth you were pensive, or covertly frown’d amid all your
children;
But now you smile with joy, exulting old Mannahatta!


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Poem Drum-Taps - Walt Whitman