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Pioneers! O Pioneers!

Pioneers! O Pioneers!


by Walt Whitman

Stanzas 5-6 Summary

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

Lines 17-20

All the past we leave behind,
We debouch upon a newer mightier world, varied world,
Fresh and strong the world we seize, world of labor and the march,
Pioneers! O pioneers! 

  • Again he's talking about making a break with the past, about setting out into a new world and taking hold of it.
  • "Debouch?" We know, we had to look it up, too. It means "to march out into open ground."
  • That word "varied" tells us a lot about how he sees America. Its diversity, as well as its newness, is part of what makes it so appealing to him. 
  • There's also a sort of hard work ethic that he's praising here. This fresh grip on the world is somehow connected to, or is the product of, "labor and the march." 
  • This stanza is all about conquering, and it's definitely giving the poem a more militaristic bent.

Lines 21-24

We detachments steady throwing,
Down the edges, through the passes, up the mountains steep,
Conquering, holding, daring, venturing as we go the unknown ways,
Pioneers! O pioneers! 

  • Our speaker describes the pioneers moving like an army across tricky terrain, conquering and moving into the unknown. Huzzah!
  • "Detachments" is an odd word, right? Our speaker is using military lingo. This reminds us of those pistols and axes he told us to bring in the first stanza. This is a battle of sorts. Man vs. Wild and all that jazz.
  • And as we'll see, this army idea will become an extended metaphor throughout the poem. He'll keep coming back to the notion that these pioneers are a conquering army, headed into battle.
  • And it's a dangerous mission. The way is steep and perilous. This ain't for the faint of heart.
  • Again we see that it's important to our speaker that the pioneers go "the unknown ways." That seems to be part of leaving the past behind and getting to that "newer mightier world" that he mentioned last stanza.

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