Poetry influential to the writer and/or reader.
Poetry is animportant aspect to literature because it often provides a deeper meaningwithin the text that is influential to the writer and/or reader. It holds avariety of literary devices that creates a set of emotions and allows thereader to engage into the context. Whitman’s poem, “O Pioneers! O’ Pioneers!”was written in 1865 to further enrich Whitman’s encouragement of the Westwardexpansion.
Whitman is showing his supportive behavior towards the struggles andempowerment America faces to fulfill the idea of Manifest Destiny through hisconstant use of symbolism, imagery, and allegory. Symbolismis a poetic movement using symbolic images or an indirect meaning to convey adeeper state of mind. Whitman references the pioneers in, “O’ Pioneers! O’Pioneers!” to soldiers in an army.
For example, “Get your weapons ready; Haveyou your pistols? Have you your sharp-edged axes?” (Lines 2-3). The firststanza of the poem uses similar meaning of words such as weapons, axes, andpistols which creates the mindset of an army preparing for battle. Whitmancompares the pioneers to an army in order to show the rough but worthwhilejourney ahead of the pioneers to migrate to the Western World.
Similarly, anarmy must go into battle in order to encompass a better life, one that involvesfreedom. In addition, Whitman writes, “Raise the mighty mother mistress, wavinghigh the delicate mistress, over all the starry mistress (bend your heads all,)Raise the fang’d and warlike mistress, stern, impassive weapon’d mistress”(Lines 31-33). Whitman uses this stanza to represent the American Flag by usingwords such as raise, waving high, and starry. He also symbolizes the flag asbeing mighty yet delicate to show the qualities surrounding it. This, onceagain, suggests the pioneers are like an army, since an army looks up to andrespects the flag. Not only does it represent a recollection of our country’spast achievements in history, but it is also a representation of the freedomAmerica provides for all people.
Also, Whitman says, “On an on, the compactranks, with accessions ever waiting, with the places of the dead quickly fill’d,through the battle, through defeat, moving yet and never stopping” (Lines 37-39).Whitman uses the phrase “compact ranks” to suggest the pioneers act like a tight,uniformed, army. Along the journey to America, many pioneers face unnoticed deaths;however, instantly, the spot is filled with another youthful pioneer ready tokeep marching on to the Western World. This shows the brave and determined mindsetof the pioneers. Similarly, many soldiers die every day sacrificing their livesso that others can experience a better world.
Still, these deaths arecelebrated due to the bravery and courage brought from the men who died. Imageryis the ability to use descriptive and vivid words in a text to present a clearpicture in the reader’s mind. For instance, Whitman explains, “We detachmentssteady throwing, Down the edges, through the passes, up the mountains steep,Conquering, holding, daring, venturing, as we go, the unknown ways” (Lines17-19). Whitman provides a clear image of the journey the pioneers are experiencingin order to encourage the reader to have an understanding of what the pioneersare going through. The men are climbing mountains and travelling through unknownpaths to reach the west. By using imagery in this context, the reader is ableto develop deeper emotions for the pioneers’ lifestyle and understand the hardwork and sacrifice they encountered to create a new life for themselves.
Inaddition, Whitman describes, “We primeval forests felling, We the riversstemming, vexing we, and piercing deep the mines within . . . we the virgin soilupheaving” (Lines 19-21).
Whitman uses descriptive language referring to mancutting down the forests, digging mines, and damming the rivers to show theunion between man and nature. The reader is able to develop a greater appreciationof the road it took the pioneers to transform the country into a more usableplace for people. It is possible for the reader to feel sympathy for nature dueto the renovating effect man had on it throughout the years. The reader mayalso develop feelings of excitement for the pioneers when they first discoverednature and believed it was never-ending. Anallegory is a picture presented in a poem to reflect an overall, more intricatehidden message. Whitman uses “O’ Pioneers! O’ Pioneers!” to convey the Americanidea of the Manifest Destiny. The Manifest Destiny claims it is the destiny ofthe U.
S. to expand and enhance the political, social, and economic influences onnew territories. For example, Whitman says, “These are of us, they are with us,all for primal needed work, while the followers there in embryo wait behind, weto-day’s procession heading, we the route for travel clearing” (Lines 59-61).Whitman uses this stanza to demonstrate the Manifest Destiny being fulfilled.His use of the word “procession” demonstrates the march of the pioneers into anew territory and discovering a new place (America) to offer equality andfreedom for all people.
Whitman further enhances the idea of Manifest Destinyby adding, “while the followers there in Embryo wait behind”. Whitman, inessence, is referring to the future pioneers in the womb that will become thenew millennium and shape our country. Life is a continual process that whichnew life emerges to further enhance the Manifest Destiny as old lives fadeaway. Whitman’spoem “O’ Pioneers! O’ Pioneers!” is a detailed and interpretive poem thatfurther explains his support towards the Westward expansion of America.
Throughhis use of symbolism, imagery, and allegory, Whitman was able to construct apoem that allowed the reader to develop a deeper understanding and importance thatthe pioneers faced to make America a place of equality and freedom. It is easyto read through a poem and take the context literally, but breaking down thepoem into concrete, examined lines can reveal a hidden message that you neverknew existed.