Pioneers! O Pioneers!: by Walt Whitman - Summary & Analysis

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      Introduction. Pioneers! O Pioneers! is a didactic moralizing ode of twenty-six four-lined stanzas with the refrain that is given as the title. In view of the noble thoughts contained in it, the inspiring nature of the fine sentiments expressed and the significantly remarkable imagery, this poem can be justifiably considered as one of the many outstanding poems of Whitman, capable of bearing favorable comparison with the best poetry that the world has produced.

      Summary. In the days of Whitman the United States of America was a nation that had found its freedom recently, less than a century old. Much work was necessary for its full development and the Civil War had been a stumbling block. The poet addresses the noble sons and daughters of America and urges them to undertake the task of building the Nation. The youth on whom the remaining persons depend are expected to bear the brunt of the danger. They are impatient but must proudly start their work to take up the eternal task of felling the age-old forests, stemming the rivers and digging up the mines. People from the various states of America collect together and jointly work for the progressive development of the land. They should not mind the struggle and battles, defeats and failures. We may face death courageously and those who die are to be replaced by others for the sake of continuing the pioneering work. Seamen, landsmen, masters, slaves, prisoners, righteous and wicked persons, joyous persons and persons grieving over something - all should jointly work for the fulfillment of the objective. Those who are eager to idle away their time indulging in gluttony or dreaming sleeps should be ignored. The pioneers are destined to dedicate themselves to their tasks braving all calamities and privations.

      Critical Analysis. In this inspiring poem, Pioneers! O Pioneers!, Whitman gave expression to many prophetic utterances which proved correct later in the history of modern America. The Americans achieved many things as pioneers in the realm of science including the conquest of space with man landing on the moon. The depth and sincerity of the poem is remarkable. All the stanzas merit quoting for their lucidity, fine diction and rhythmic qualities. The language tends to become artificially excited with predicate-subject inversion and noun-adjective interchange of places. Omission of letters for shortening the number of syllables (as in O’er, ‘tis etc) is usually practiced by poets but Whitman has recourse to it even when there is no necessity for it.

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