The theme of Whitman's poem, Beat! Beat! Drums!, is, in my opinion, anti-war. During the first few stanzas of the poem, one would think Whitman was looking at the Civil War from a pro-war standpoint. However, in the last line of the poem, "So strong you thump O terrible drums." it is clear that Whitman is trying to denounce the war rather than glorify it. .
Whitman, in all three stanzas, composes a thematic list of the aspects of life that are affected by the war. In the first stanza, Whitman is clearly outlining specific places and its corresponding spectators whose lives have become crippled by the "ruthless force" otherwise known as the war. In the second stanza, Whitman shows how the war poses a threat to not only the people, but to their everyday lifestyle in the present and the future. In the final stanza, Whitman targets specific personalities, and how they are especially vulnerable to the atmosphere of the war. The way he used this style of writing gives the reader a glance of what is to come, as opposed to what has happened.
Throughout the poem, Whitman uses the effect of the continuous beat of the drum and the blowing of the bugle to portray a long struggle. It is also relevant to the beating of a heart, which can be as repetitive and consistent as a lifetime of war. It is mentioned in all three stanzas, and Whitman not only utilizes the beating drum to display recurrence, but the actual repetition of the drum in his poem to continuously remind the reader of this long struggle. Whitman also goes so far as to describe the drum as beating faster or louder, as in this sentence, " Then rattle quicker, heavier drums - you bugles wilder blow." This effect further reiterates the long term effects of the war.
After reading the poem through, one can see that the drum Whitman mentions so many times throughout his poem not only symbolizes a struggle, but metaphorically depicts the violence and negative effects of the war.