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Pioneers O Pioneers

Page history last edited by Mr. Hengsterman 5 years, 1 month ago









"Pioneers! O Pioneers!" is a poem by the American poet Walt Whitman. It was first published in Leaves of Grass in 1865. The poem was written as a tribute to Whitman's fervor for the great Westward expansion in the United States that led to things like the California Gold Rush and exploration of the far west.


Whitman's poem was written as an ode to the pioneers who had set out in search of a more fulfilling life by settling in the American West. Throughout the poem Whitman pays homage to the pioneers' courage and fearless choice to set out to find a brighter future.


Whitman's use of elements such as allegory, and imagery, present his support for the pioneers and manifest destiny. The poem deals with perseverance and the enthusiasm towards exploration in America as compared to “Western youths” which refers to the young United States, and “Elder races” which refers to the European countries “shrouded bards of other lands” that once had the opportunity to explore the western territory. In the poem the myth of the west, which was incredibly important in the bringing up of the United States, acts as a continuum linking the past to the future; showing the potential of the new America.  By using the first person plural Whitman writes about the duties to be carried out by the pioneers; this style of using first person plural gives the poem a strong emotional appeal, which in return gives the reader a stronger connection to the poem.


A strong sense of unity can be felt by Whitman's repetition of the word "we" introducing the reader to the idea that everyone is a pioneer, and it promotes the idea that the reader is part of the poem. "O you daughters of the West! O you young and elder daughters! O you mothers and you wives! Never must you be divided, in our ranks you move united, Pioneers! O pioneers!" This is another example of how Whitman puts a strong emphasis on unity in the poem, it is not targeted towards men only, he is calling out to every individual making the migration to the west.

 The poem was written during the frontier era, which did not draw to a close until the latter part of the 19th century, so the figure of the pioneer in the poem could be read both from a literal standpoint as well as symbolic. The poem is also a representation of the revolutionary war through the description of the youthful race of America going up against the older generation in order to shape the future of the country."See my children, resolute children,By those swarms upon our rear we must never yield or falter,Ages back in ghostly millions frowning there behind us urging,Pioneers! O pioneers!", Whitman calls out to the young pioneers telling them to go where no man has gone before.


By using the same allegorical metaphor to represent manifest destiny and America as a country Whitman shows that his passion for exploration wasn’t limited to what he could do by himself.


Whitman uses imagery to paint a picture in the minds of his readers; with his use of objects and places Whitman helps his readers get a feel for what lies ahead in the poem. For example, the line “Down the edges, through the passes, up the mountains steep” refers to the pioneers forging the trails and often crossing difficult terrain, they had to create new lives for themselves through hard work and sacrifice, making it possible for others to follow in their footsteps. Whitman's imagery assists the readers' understanding of the poem by explaining how hard the work was and why it was important. His imagery and emotional appeal makes it possible for him to achieve the total effect of his poem and project the meaning to the reader. Whitman shows pride towards the pioneers and shows his admiration for the new youthful and promising country, and he uses this poem as a tribute to explain why they must go forth and why they are to be honored[5] The poem still applies to today's society by the fact that the poem is versatile - present day readers can also draw information and motivation from it.




"Pioneers! O Pioneers!" is a paean of praise to the pioneers, those Americans who, by great effort, succeeded in transforming wilderness into civilization. Whitman identifies himself, body and soul, with them and is determined to march on the road to progress. The poet appears as a prophet — like Moses, he will lead the modern Israelites to a new Promised Land.


"Tan-faced children" and "Western youths" are called upon to fell "primeval forests" and to cross rivers and mountains in order to reach the West. Some of these pioneers "droop and die" on their journey. But, cheered on by "all the pulses of the world," the rest will reach their goal. In this poem it is suggested that the movement of Americans to the West is another way of fulfilling a divine purpose; it is one form of the fruition of mystic evolution, of the material and spiritual progress of man.


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