City Drum

Image:  Paramahansa Yogananda Chanting

33.  “City Drum”

The speaker in Paramahansa Yogananda’s “City Drum” is dramatizing the glory of simply waking up in the morning to the sounds of a city as it begins an ordinary yet miraculous day.

Introduction and Excerpt from “City Drum”

The rime scheme in Paramahansa Yogananda’s “City Drum” offers the poem a quaint rhythmic gait as it opens the atmosphere imparted to the observant spectator of the rousing of the city in the morning.  The poem consists of four stanzas; the first, second, and fourth each have four rimed lines, while the third has five rimed couplets.

The rime scheme does not remain consistent throughout but varies to enhance the varied subject as it progresses.   The first stanza’s rime scheme is ABCB, and the second stanza’s rime scheme is ABCC, while the fourth stanza consists of two couplets, as in the third stanza.

This offset rhythm and rime scheme perfectly expresses the varied activities of the city waking up, beginning its myriad forms of labor and events—all that make up a marvelous commingling of human activity, involving strong feelings of struggle for hope as well as survival.

Excerpt from “City Drum”

‘Tis morn. I hear
In rolling wheels the song
Of a marching world
So strong.

I love to be roused
From a silent sleep
By the early hum
Of the active city drum . . .

Commentary

In a perfectly cadenced rhythm coupled with a marvelously varied rime scheme, the speaker in Paramahansa Yogananda’s “City Drum” reports his feelings of awe at the sounds of a city coming to life in the morning.

First Stanza:   A Busy World in the Morning

The opening line declares that it is morning—just a simple statement announcing the time of day, and then the speaker asserts that to his ears has come the great sound of many vehicles moving to their various places of employment for the day’s work.  

The speaker is listening to the many cars and trucks of working people who are on the move, starting their day.  And the speaker avers that that great “marching world” of work is stout and hardy.

The following lines come to mind from the great Walt Whitman, wherein with his sprawling catalogues he demonstrates his love for the opening of an ordinary workday:

I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear,
Those of mechanics, each one singing his as it should be blithe and strong,
The carpenter singing his as he measures his plank or beam,
The mason singing his as he makes ready for work, or leaves off work, 

The speaker in Paramahansa Yogananda’s poem also hears music in the ordinary opening of the day, expressing the sound of “rolling wheels” as a song, and the great poet Walt Whitman offers that same mindset as he describes the scenes he cherishes.

Second Stanza:  The Simple Act of Waking Up

In the second stanza, the speaker reports his affection for the simple act of waking up to the sounds of the city.  He finds it refreshing to be awaked from a deep sleep by that sound of the city beginning its day.  He finds the sound so beautiful that it reminds him of the sound of a musical instrument, a drum.

The colorful description of a city’s rousing itself awake infuses what may seem to be merely a hum-drum experience with new interest and appeal. Seen through the eyes of this speaker, the miracle of each day’s renewal can be experienced in the simple act of waking up, listening to ordinary sounds of God’s children moving about and going to work or school or anywhere else toward which they may be moving.  

Third Stanza:  Celebrating Ordinary People

The five couplets of the third stanza portray as “heroes” all the people who choose to face the morning’s potential trepidations with courage and “a dauntless smile.”  Again, the speaker’s assessment of all the strangers he does not even know reminds the reader of Walt Whitman’s many catalogues that celebrate ordinary people as they meet their day in work and in play. 

The speaker claims that this beautiful, musical drum beat is greeting all those ordinary laborers, caregivers, students, shoppers, professionals of all stripes as “heroes.”  They soldier on heroically in the face possible dangers as they overcome worries and other trials and tribulations.  

The same “drum” beat of “rolling wheels” that rouses the speaker has likewise roused those other citizens to get out and go about their duties. The workers, whether they are businessman, teacher, nurse, or laborer will hear the same beat of the drum.  

And they do it smiling, and thus they bring about a well-functioning “happy camp” where the peace of silent accomplishment moves the nation in the direction of prosperity.  The dutiful multitude of citizens provides the world with an energy that blesses everyone; the simple act of beginning a new day transforms itself into an amazing miracle to be cherished and enjoyed.

Fourth Stanza:  Celebrating the Efficacy of Sound

The speaker then summarizes and reemphasizes the efficacy of sound.  The “city drum” that is a “noisy hum” daily, early, and consistently trumpets its “true and strong” announcement that, “The world is marching on.”  

The speaker in Paramahansa Yogananda’s “City Drum” has gently dramatized the glory of simply awakening to the morning sounds of a city as it begins its ordinary yet miraculous day.

The speaker has gently, lovingly, and convincingly demonstrated that even the most common, ordinary event one could image, the waking up of people in the morning and going to work, remains nothing less than a miracle.  

Such a gift to the heart and mind of humanity is priceless—to see everything and every event that surrounds one as a miracle.  Such an attitude vanquishes pain, sorrow, stress, and the simple weight of being.

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A published collection of these commentaries is available at 
Commentaries on Paramahansa Yogananda’s Songs of the Soul.

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