“Pioneers! O Pioneers!”


&quotPioneers!O Pioneers!&quot

&quotPioneers!O Pioneers!&quot

Thepoem by Whitman was dedicated to the pioneers who had searched andexplore a more fulfilling lifestyle and settled in the American West.The poem presents a literary piece that includes the audience as partof the title, he calls pioneers. Published in 1865, the poem waswritten at the time the United States had experienced the westwardexpansion. This event involved expansion of the united states towardsthe west, making the boundaries include the western states of thefederation. In most of the poem, Whitman pays a great homage to thesepioneers and invokes the audience to take the feeling of the authorfor the pioneers. The poem also reflects the time of the Californiagold rush of the19th century.

Thepoem praises the pioneers for they succeeded to turn the wildernessof the westward into a civilization. By recognizing the efforts takenby the pioneers, Whitman identifies his body and soul with thepioneers in the pursuit of progress. The progress being portrayed byWhitman, is the transformation that pioneers establish in the westernstates, which indicates their prophetic leadership style of that isvindicated by their work. Moreover, Whitman recognizes the sacrificestaken by the pioneers in their pursuit for victory as some died fromthe hardships they faced. According to Whitman (1865), some droopedand died in their pursuit of the successful journey.

Topresent the poem and the message, Whitman uses allegory and imageryto conceal the message and make sense of the circumstances. In thepoem, Whitman uses the words “western youths” to refer to theyoung nature of the United States, as the country was developing itshistory and territories (Edward &amp Fletcher, 1947). Whitman alsorefers to the European countries by using the words “elder races”and also calls them the “shrouded bards of other lands” thatexplored the American west. In addition, Whitman uses the firstperson as a way of involving the audience in reflecting on theenthusiasm and the perseverance of the pioneers.

Relationto Other Poems

Justlike his other poems, “Pioneers! O Pioneers!” was written at thesame time period that reflected similar context of the Americanhistory. The context of these poems relates to the aspect of Americanwestward expansion. For instance, the poem &quotSong of the BroadAxe&quot talks of the experiences and the achievements made byAmerica during the expansion to the west (Mirsky, 1995). In addition,O Captain! My Captain also deals with the same context of theAmerican history at the time when the country was mourning the deathof the inspirational leader, Abraham Lincoln (Frank,2009).Most of his other poems relate to the American history, throughoutthe progression of the country to shape its political and economicscene.

Inaddition, the poem also relates to other poems in terms of the styleused in presenting the title of the poems. The poem “Pioneers! OPioneers!” repeats the word “pioneers” as a way of setting thetone of the content of the poem, as a praise of their enthusiasm andperseverance (Mirsky, 1995). Similarly, the poem O Captain! MyCaptain! Repeats the title word “Captain” as a way of setting thesame pace of the content presented by the poem (Lambert,etal, 2010).The poem portrays consistency of his style, content and context ofhis literary works as seen in other poems.

WhatWhitman’s Presented in the Poem

Thepoem intends to present several themes that relate to the context ofthe American history. The first main intention of the author is toshow his admiration of the pioneers in the work they did in theexploration and settling in the American west. Whitman expresses themarvels of the settling and consequently invokes the audience toadmire and appreciate the sacrifice of the pioneers (Edward &ampFletcher, 1947). Whitman (1865) states that he admires the pioneersby saying, “O I mourn and yet exult, I am rapt with love for all.”This invokes the feeling of pride in the efforts of the pioneers.

Inaddition, Whitman shows the love for the country and the loyaltyvision of America. This is shown by the lines that Whitman uses inthe poem that tries to urge the reader to love the country. Theauthor uses loyal words and lines like “We debouch upon a newermightier world” (Whitman, 1865). This shows the extent of the lovethat the country and the author have for the new found land. Thistends to invoke the readers to share in the sentiments that Americais a great country, and the new land is also great.

Bywriting the poem, Whitman presents a reason why Americans shouldhonor and respect the pioneers of the land. Taking the American westas an example, Whitman gives not only an account of the experiencesof the pioneers but also the need to take the mass heroes (Frank,2009).By using the line “O I mourn and yet exult, I am rapt with love forall,” Whitman expresses his admiration and the feelings for thefounding fathers. It is this feeling Whitman wants the readers totake and hold towards the pioneers.

Whitmanachieves this intention by including the audience as part of thenarration, which takes the poem to first person account. Through theuse of the audience, Whitman makes the reader part of the narrationthat gives an account of the experiences of the pioneers. This makesthe poem not only a realistic piece of literature, but a rhetoricthat invokes the emotions of the reader (Wiget,2013).Consequently, the reader gets involved in the sentiments of theauthor an aspect that makes Whitman achieves his intention ofgetting the audience to adore the pioneers.

Whitmanalso promotes loyalty to the nation through the use of the poem aswell as the linkage of the poem to the pioneers. He does not onlyshow the love for the pioneers but also the love for the country. Inaddition to his other literature, this poem represents his largerintention for his literature the intention of promoting loyalty.Consequently, the poem makes the audience adore both the country andthe pioneers in equal measure.


Thepoem “Pioneers! O Pioneers!” presents a case of a praisededicated to the pioneers who explored and settled in the Americanwest. The context of the poem is the achievements of the pioneers intransforming the wilderness, into a civilization that joined America.Whitman uses allegory and imagery in the novel and adopts repetitionof words to set the tone of the message. Like his other poems,“Pioneers! O Pioneers!” present a literary work based on thecontexts of the American history.


Edward,G. &amp Fletcher, E. G. (1947). &quotPioneers!O Pioneers!&quot AmericanLiterature Vol. 19, No. 3 (November , 1947), pp. 259-261

Lambert,L. M. et al. (2010). OCaptain! My Captain! NewYork: VDM Publishing

Frank,L. T. (2009). CivilWar: People and Perspectives.New York: ABC-CLIO Publishers

Mirsky,D. S. (1995). WaltWhitman and the World.Lowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1995. PoetryCriticism.Vol. 91. p320-333.Rpt.

Whitman,W. (1865). ThePoems of Walt Whitman: Patriotic Poems.Sudbury, MA: eBookIt.com

Wiget,A. (2013). Handbookof Native American Literature.New York: Routledge