Pioneers! O Pioneers!
by Walt Whitman
Pioneers! O Pioneers! Summary
Our speaker calls out to the pioneers. Hey! Pioneers! Listen up, for Pete's sake.
He seems to include us, the readers, among the pioneers he is addressing. He describes the young pioneers and mentions there is a ton of work and danger ahead. Plus, he urges that pioneers must always keep moving, never resting too long in one place.
Then he tells this new race of pioneers (us included) to pick up where others (across the Atlantic) left off. He tells us we must leave the past behind and set out upon the world. Okay, buddy. We get it. We have to pioneer.
The pioneers are described like an army detachment. They flow over the terrain, grappling and conquering. They chop down trees, dig mines, all kinds of stuff.
Our speaker speaks of men from a few different states, describing the geography from which they come. He tells us that all these varied men are comrades. They clasp hands and share the same "continental blood." Basically, no matter where you're from, if you're a pioneer, you're a-okay in his book.
Our speaker (in case we couldn't tell from his constant exclamation of "Pioneers! O Pioneers!") just can't get enough of these explorer-types. He loves them. Especially the American ones.
So it makes sense, then, that he next waxes poetic about the American flag, urging that it be raised and waved. Then he thinks of the future generations who will take on the task of pioneering, and he thinks also of the generations that have come before. He thinks of them as ghosts, urging on the current generation. Get going, fools! Pioneer!
Then he gets listy on us. Our speaker lists all sorts of people in different social positions and jobs, good or bad, and seems to suggest that they are all unified, are all pioneers.
Then the poem takes a little bit of a mysterious, existential turn. Our speaker describes himself, his soul and his body, as separate, as a trio walking through the shadows of the world. Um, way to get weird on us, Walt.
Then he expresses awe and amazement at the heavens, the sun and stars and planets. Our speaker feels the connection to these things, and to the grandness and mystery of the world.
The work of pioneers, we're told, is primal, and our speaker thinks again of those to come, who will carry on the procession. He also gives some props to the lady-pioneers, the mothers and daughters and wives.
Our speaker turns his attention to minstrels and bards. He thinks a new kind of art will come from the prairies and landscapes of America. See, pioneering isn't about comforts, riches, or safety. It's about hard work, risk, and sacrifice.
He then asks if night has fallen, if things have been hard, if we have become discouraged. Um, maybe. It's a good thing, then that he offers us an hour's rest.
But soon, the sound of trumpet at daybreak comes, and it is time, he tells us, to keep moving, to take our place in the army of pioneers. All right already. Just five more minutes of snooze time.