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Pioneers! O Pioneers!

Pioneers! O Pioneers!


by Walt Whitman

Stanzas 23-24 Summary

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

Lines 89-92

Not for delectations sweet,
Not the cushion and the slipper, not the peaceful and the studious,
Not the riches safe and palling, not for us the tame enjoyment,
Pioneers! O pioneers! 

  • Oh now here's a shift. Instead of saying yes to all these pioneering groups, our speaker is now saying no to something quite different. 
  • No to creature comforts! He wants nothing to do with sweets, slippers, cushions. None of that squishy stuff.
  • These "riches" and enjoyments are "tame." They seem to sap out the strength that comes from living a hard life. They're certainly not invigorating.
  • Perhaps he's aware that this is what comes once the trees have been chopped, the trails have been blazed, the factories have been built, and the rivers have been bridged.
  • Which is maybe why he wants his pioneers to keep moving always, never to dawdle for too long in one spot. They'll get soft.
  • And that's the kiss of death.

Lines 93-96

Do the feasters gluttonous feast?
Do the corpulent sleepers sleep? have they lock'd and bolted doors?
Still be ours the diet hard, and the blanket on the ground,
Pioneers! O pioneers! 

  • Our speaker takes a look at what we're guessing are the non-pioneers, the "gluttonous," "corpulent sleepers." In other words, the fat, lazy lubs. Real nice, Whitman.
  • He makes these people who love material, civilized comforts seem somehow corrupt. They're scared of danger (those locked doors), and spoiled by their excess of food and sleep.
  • What does our speaker like instead? The tough pioneer life, of course! 
  • He's for the hard diet, sleeping on the hard ground, the embrace of danger and death. 
  • He could seriously give Bear Grylls a run for his money. 

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