alarums and excursions
- All the sounds and activities of preparations for war.
1898, Henry Augustin Beers, chapter 11, in 18th Century: A History of English Romanticism:
- The French armies were not far off, and there were alarums and excursions all along the border.
- (idiomatic, by extension) Any frantic activity.
1922, J. S. Fletcher, chapter 19, in In the Mayor's Parlour:
- He had been well aware ever since his coming to Hathelsborough of an atmosphere of intrigue and mystery; every development that occurred seemed to thicken it. . . . It puzzled him, being still a stranger to the habits and customs of these people, to see that life in Hathelsborough went on, amidst all these alarums and excursions.
- As a Shakespearean stage direction: Soldiers march across the stage, blowing bugles and beating drums, etc.