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Paramahansa Yogananda's "City Drum"

Updated on January 31, 2018
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The poetry of Paramahansa Yogananda serves to enhance the activity of meditation, ultimately leading the individual soul to Divine Reality.

Paramahansa Yogananda

"Last Smile"
"Last Smile" | Source

Introduction and Excerpt from Poem, "City Drum"

The rime scheme of "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 ten 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.

(Please note: The spelling, "rhyme," was introduced into English by Dr. Samuel Johnson through an etymological error. For my explanation for using only the original form, please see "Rime vs Rhyme: An Unfortunate Error.")

Excerpt from "City Drum"

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

(Please note: The poem in its entirety may be found in Paramahansa Yogananda's Songs of the Soul, published by Self-Realization Fellowship, Los Angeles, CA, 1983 and 2014 printings.)

Commentary

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

First Stanza: A Busy World in the Morning

The opening lines declare that it is morning—just a simple statement pronouncing the time of day: "'Tis morn." Then the speaker asserts that to his ears has come the great sound of "rolling wheels the song / Of a marching world / So strong."

The speaker no doubt has heard 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.

Readers are put in mind the great Walt Whitman with his sprawling catalogues that cherish the ordinary, such as the beginning of a workday.

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: "I love to be roused / From silent sleep / By the early hum / Of active-city 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 reader becomes aware of the miracle of each day’s renewal in the simple act of waking up, listening to ordinary sounds of God’s children moving about and going to work.

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, 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, "The drum doth beat / To loudly greet / All heroes true / That would die or do." The same "drum" beat of "rolling wheels" that rouses the speaker has likewise roused other citizens to get out and go about their duties.

The workers, whether they are businessman, teacher, nurse, or laborer, "meet the morning’s foe / Of worry or woe." But they do it smiling, and thus they bring about a "happy camp" "[where] peace burn[s] its lamp."

The dutiful workers provide 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.

Life Sketch and Publications of Paramahansa Yogananda

The great guru/poet Paramahansa Yogananda was born on January 5, 1893, in Gorakhpur, India. His name at birth was Mukunda Lal Ghosh. Always a spiritually advanced child, at age 17, he met his guru, Swami Sri Yukteswar, under whose guidance he flourished and became the spiritual giant and sacred engine that leads souls back to their eternal abode in the arms of the Divine Creator.

Paramahansa Yogananda came to the United States in 1920 to speak in Boston at the International Congress of Religious Liberals. His speech was so well received that he quickly gathered a following. By 1925, his organization, Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF), was well established with the purpose of disseminating and maintaining the purity of his teachings of yoga. He has come to be known as the “Father of Yoga in the West.”

The following is an excerpt from the introduction to Paramahansa Yogananda’s biography on the Self-Realization Fellowship Web site:

In the hundred years since the birth of Paramahansa Yogananda, this beloved world teacher has come to be recognized as one of the greatest emissaries to the West of India’s ancient wisdom. His life and teachings continue to be a source of light and inspiration to people of all races, cultures and creeds.

Publications of Paramahansa Yogananda

Paramahansa Yogananda's in-depth work, Autobiography of a Yogi, has become a spiritual classic worldwide. Many devotees have been drawn to the teachings of this yogi through that autobiography, and many of their stories about how they came to find that work include some of the most inspiring "miracles" of modern American culture.

Such world-renowned figures as Dennis Weaver, Steve Jobs, George Harrison, and Elvis Presley were influenced by the Autobiography of a Yogi and the teachings of the great guru. Weaver even became a lay minister and spoke often at many of the SRF temples in California.

In addition to the autobiography, the great guru has published many collections of his talks, in both written and oral forms. His audio collector's series of ten of his informal talks includes the following titles:

1. Beholding the One in All
2. Awake in the Cosmic Dream
3. Be a Smile Millionaire
4. The Great Light of God
5. To Make Heaven on Earth
6. One Life Versus Reincarnation
7. Removing All Sorrow and Suffering
8. In the Glory of the Spirit
9. Follow the Path of Christ, Krishna, and the Masters
10. Self-Realization: The Inner and the Outer Path

These inspirational talks reveal much information about the great guru that appeals to his devoted followers. Just listening to a God-realized voice offers an uplifting spiritual experience.

The Poetry of Paramahansa Yogananda

For my commentaries on the poems of the great guru, I rely on his marvelous collection titled, Songs of the Soul, the version published in 1983 with its most current printing 2014. Two additional collections of his poems are extant, Whispers From Eternity and Metaphysical Meditations.

Because the "poems" of this great guru function on levels that ordinary poems do not, they are often used in devotional services held by groups of devotees of the SRF teachings throughout the world in the Readings Services as well as their Special Commemorative Services.

Paramahansa Yogananda's poems are more akin to prayers than to the poetry of ordinary poets, whose subject matter often dramatizes only human emotion in its relationship with creation and other human beings, instead of with the Creator; the great guru's poems always invoke the Creator's presence whether directly or indirectly.

Other Publications

The great guru's organization, SRF, also continues to publish collections of his works. Many of his talks have appeared in the series of essays that include Man's Eternal Quest, The Divine Romance, and Journey to Self-realization.

Corrective Translations

The guru has also bestowed on the literary world three important translations of extant perennial works that have been grossly misunderstood in some cases for centuries. His new translations along with his explanatory commentaries are correcting that misunderstanding.

In Wine of the Mystic: The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam — A Spiritual Interpretation, he shows how that poet's God-realized effusions put on display a man in love with his Creator and not the wine sopped Epicurean that has been misapplied to the work.

In the guru's in-depth translation and commentaries on the ancient Bhagavad Gita, titled God Talks With Arjuna: The Bhagavad Gita — A New Translation and Commentary, the great spiritual leader offers not only the poetic translation of the work but also the relevance for humankind of the psychological and spiritual instruction offered in the ancient poem.

Most importantly for Western culture, Paramahansa Yogananda has offered a full explanation of the phenomenon known as the "Second Coming." Titled The Second Coming of Christ: The Resurrection of the Christ Within You — A revelatory commentary on the original teachings of Jesus, the work explains the true meaning of many of Jesus' words long misunderstood and mischaracterized, such as "The Kingdom of God is within you" and "I and my Father are one."

The Lessons

Of all the publications offered by SRF and the great guru, it is the Lessons that remain most vital. One could dispense with all of the other books, audio tapes, poetry, and other commentaries if one possesses those lessons.

The Lessons begin by offering physical exercises that prepare the physical encasement to sit quietly and still while performing the more advanced exercises that lead to Kriya Yoga practice.

The Lessons contains six steps that can be completed in three years, but each student is free to progress at his/her own pace. The Lessons include instruction in the following techniques: 1. Energization Exercises. 2. Hong-Sau Technique of Concentration, and 3. Aum Technique of Meditation.

After completing the first two steps, the devotee may apply for the Kriya Yoga technique.

Kriya Yoga Initiations

The Kriya Yoga technique features four initiations for a total of twenty lessons. The First Initiation, featuring lessons K1-9, includes the technique of Kriya proper, on which all of the other initiations are based. The Second Initiation contains four lessons, K10-14, and the Third and Fourth include the remaining lessons K15-20.

All of the Lessons, including the Kriya Yoga Initiations, include many explanations based of science, as well as on the life experience of Paramahansa Yogananda. These marvelous works are presented in such way to hold the student-devotees' interest with little stories, poems, affirmations, and prayers that enhance the purpose of each lesson.

Complete Works

In addition to all of the works mentioned above, Paramahansa Yogananda has published many others, including his Cosmic Chants, which offers musical notations as well as the lyric for each chant.

An annotated list of the works of the great guru is offered on the Self-Realization Fellowship Web site under the title, "The Complete Works of Paramahansa Yogananda."

Developing an Unconquerable Will

© 2017 Linda Sue Grimes

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