Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE DRUM, by EDWARD FORRESTER SUTTON

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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

THE DRUM, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: There's a rhythm down the road where the elms overarch
Last Line: "of the drum!"
Alternate Author Name(s): Sutton, E.
Subject(s): Christianity; Drums; Musical Instruments; Vengeance; War

There's a rhythm down the road where the elms overarch
Of the drum, of the drum,
There's a glint through the green, there's a column on the march,
Here they come, here they come,
To the flat resounding clank they are tramping rank on rank,
And the bayonet flashes ripple from the flank to the flank.
"I am rhythm, marching rhythm," says the drum.
"No aid am I desiring of the loud brazen choiring,
"Of bugle or of trumpet the lilt and the lyring,
"I'm the slow dogged rhythm, unending, untiring,
"I am rhythm, marching rhythm," says the drum.
"I am rhythm, dogged rhythm, and the plodders feel me with 'em,
"I'm the two miles an hour that is empire, that is power,
"I'm the slow resistless crawl in the dust-cloud's choking pall,
"I'm the marching days that run from the dawn to set of sun,
"I'm the rifle and the kit and the dragging weight of it,
"I'm the jaws grimly set and the faces dripping sweat,
"I'm the how, why, and when, the Almighty made for men,"
Says the rhythm, marching rhythm, of the drum.
"Did you call my song 'barbaric'? Did you mutter, 'out of date'?
"When you hear me with the foemen then your cry will come too late.
"Here are hearts a-beating for you, to my pulsing as I come,
"To the rhythm, tramping rhythm,
"To the rhythm, dogged rhythm,
"To the dogged tramping rhythm
"Of the drum!"

There's a clashing snarling rhythm down the valley broad and ample
Of the drum, kettledrum,
There's a low, swelling rumor that is cavalry a-trample,
Here they come, here thy come,
To the brassy crash and wrangle, to the horseman's clink and jangle,
And the restive legs beneath 'em all a-welter and a-tangle.
"I am rhythm, dancing rhythm," says the drum.
"White and sorrel, roan and dapple, hocks as shiny as an apple,
"Don't they make a splendid showing, ears a-pricking, tails a-blowing?
"Good boys — bless 'em — well they're knowing all my tricks to set 'em
"To my rhythm, dancing rhythm!" says the drum.
"I am rhythm, clashing rhythm, and the horses feel me with 'em.
"I'm the foray and the raid, I'm the glancing sabre-blade.
"Now I'm here, now I'm there, flashing on the unaware.
"How I scout before the ranks, how I cloud along the flanks,
"How the highway smokes behind me let the faint stars tell that find me
"All night through, all night through, when the bridles drip with dew.
"I'm the labor, toil, and pain, I'm the loss that shall be gain,"
Says the rhythm, clashing rhythm, of the drum.
"Did you speak of 'useless slaughter'? Did you murmur 'Christian love'?
"Pray that such as these before you when the war-cloud bursts above,
"With the bridle on the pommel meet the foemen as they come,
"To the rhythm, dashing rhythm,
"To the rhythm, crashing rhythm
"To the crashing, dashing rhythm
"Of the drum!"

There's an echo shakes the valley o'er the rhythm deep and slow
Of the drum, of the drum,
'Tis the guns, the guns a-rolling on the bridges down below,
Here they come, here they come,
Hark the felloes grind and lumber through the shadows gray and umber,
And the triple spans a-panting up the slope the stones encumber,
With the rhythm distant rhythm, of the drum.
"'Tis the long Shapes of Fear that the moonlight silvers here,
"And the jolting limber's weighted with the silent cannoneer,
"'Tis the Pipes of Peace are passing, O ye people, give an ear!"
Says the rhythm, iron rhythm, of the drum.
"They are rhythm, thunder rhythm, and they do not need me with 'em,
"That can overtone my choir like the bourdon from the spire.
"Avant-garde am I to these Lords of dreadful revelries,
"Iron Cyclops with an eye to confound the earth and sky.
"Love and Fear, Love and Fear, neither one but both revere,
"And whatever grace ye deal let it be from courts of steel,
"Set the guns' emplacement then to expound the Law to men,"
Says the rhythm iron rhythm of the drum.
"O ye coiners, sentence-joiners, in a fatted, tradesman's land,
"Here's evangel Pentecostal that all nations understand,
"When they speak before the battle fools and theories are dumb!"
God be with 'em, and the rhythm,
And the rhythm, iron rhythm,
And the rolling thunder rhythm
Of the drum!

There's a rhythm still and toneless with the wind amid the green,
Of the drum, muffled drum,
And there's arms reversed, and something 'neath a flag that goes between
As they come, as they come.
"Just a soldier, nothing more, such as all the ages bore
"And as time and tide shall bear them till the sun be sere and hoar,"
Says the rhythm, muffled rhythm, of the drum.
"No more am I requiring of the keen brazen lyring
"Than 'taps' from the bugle — some shots for the firing.
"Hats off; stand aside; it is all I'm desiring,"
Says the rhythm, muffled rhythm, of the drum.
"I am rhythm, muffled rhythm; long and deep farewell go with him,
"Hands that bore their portion through tasks our nature needs must do,
"Feet that stepped the ancient rhyme of the battle-march of Time.
"Blood or tribute, steel or gold, still Vae Victis as of old,
"Stern and curt the message runs taught to sons and sons of sons.
"Chair à canon, would you call? What else are we, one and all?
"Write it thus to close his span: 'Here there lies a fighting man,' "
Says the rhythm, muffled rhythm, of the drum.
"O ye farms upon the hillside and ye cities by the sea,
"With the laughter of young mothers and the babes about the knee,
"'Tis a heart that once beat for you that is passing, still and dumb,
"To the rhythm, muffled rhythm,
"To the rhythm, solemn rhythm,
"To the slow and muffled rhythm
"Of the drum!"

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