Drums of all that’s right and wrong—of love and hate and scorn,
And the new-born baby hears them and it wails when it is born.
Drums of all that is to be, and all that has gone by,
And we hear them when we’re dreaming, and we hear them while we die.
Drums of martyred innocence and drums of driven guilt
Beating backward from the future when the first rude town was built;
Beating louder through the slave days and the dark and hungry nights,
While the hovels filled the valleys and the castles crowned the heights;
Beating louder while the mansions shifted east from miles of slums—
Don’t you hear them? Don’t you hear them? Don’t you hear the alley drums?
Drums of human sacrifice and drums of war at home—
While the Romans conquered nations they were beating loud in Rome.
Children heard them through the ages, mothers paused and glanced behind,
Madmen saw and heard the drummers, but the rest were deaf and blind.
Peasants starved on fields of plenty, workmen rotted in the slums—
Till the drummers came to Paris and the nations heard the drums.
Drums of hope and bursting hearts—the drums of Westward Ho!—
From the homes of generations and their native land they go.
’Groom and bride and grey-haired mother, bent old men who go alone—
Fleeing bitter persecution for the terrible unknown:
Seeking freedom, rest, or justice—and the peace that never comes—
And the wilderness was conquered when the pilgrims beat their drums.
Drums of Greed that followed fast where men had made the way,
Waking drums of stern rebellion when the exiles turned at bay,
Spreading death and desolation, breeding old-world hells anew,
Until England lost a nation for the blindness of a few.
Still the dirty Jewish talon reached from palaces and slums
Till a hundred thousand English died to stop the farmers’ drums.
Drums of tortured hearts o’ men—the drums that never ceased—
Throbbing through the British Empire from the heart of London East;
Growling louder still wherever, in the wake of those who lead,
Comes the murmur of the board-room and the stealthy steps of greed;
Growling through the Southern cities, murmuring in the Western gums,
Till the Empire falls to pieces at the beating of the drums!
Drums of all that’s right and wrong—of love and hate and scorn;
And the new-born baby hears them, and he wails when he is born.
Drums of all that is to be, and all that has gone by—
And we hear there when we’re dreaming, and we hear then while we die.
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"The Drums of Ages" Poetry.net. STANDS4 LLC, 2020. Web. 1 Jun 2020. <https://www.poetry.net/poem/17985/the-drums-of-ages>.