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Pioneers! O Pioneers!

Pioneers! O Pioneers!


by Walt Whitman

Stanzas 21-22 Summary

Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.

Lines 81-84

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! 

  • Finally. The lady shout-out we've been looking for. Everyone who's seen Westward the Women (which is a grand total of, oh, just us) knows that women played just as big a pioneering role as the men. It's about time they get some love. 
  • In his address to these brave broads, he again stresses unity. These women have got to stick together, and have a unified purpose. 
  • We're not sure why he directs this particularly to the daughters, mothers and wives, but maybe he simply decided he needed to address them directly at some point. 
  • If his directions to them seem the same as what he wants from everyone, well, maybe that's a sort of equality of the sexes. 
  • After all, these women are definitely getting their fair share of the military imagery, too. They've got "ranks."

Lines 85-88

Minstrels latent on the prairies!
(Shrouded bards of other lands, you may rest, you have done your work,)
Soon I hear you coming warbling, soon you rise and tramp amid us,
Pioneers! O pioneers! 

  • But if we've learned anything about our speaker, it's that he doesn't just stop with one group. 
  • So in addition to the ladies, he calls out the minstrels and the bards. 
  • These are the poets and storytellers that he believes are lying in wait across America, just waiting for a good tale to tell. 
  • Part of his theory of the coming rise of American artists is that he thinks the time of those old weary people across the sea is over. We guess in his view the rest of the world just isn't as fertile a ground for breaking with tradition and making things new. They've told their stories already, and their bards "have done [their] work."
  • So he calls for the poets of America, land of pioneers and possibilities, to come forth.
  • That's means it's an entirely new generation of poets he's looking for. Might Whitman include himself in this group? We have a hunch he does. 

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