Walt Whitman

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In "Pioneers!  O Pioneers!" by Walt Whitman, who will take up "the task eternal" & how will they accomplish it?

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mrs-campbell eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The title itself refers to the answer of this one, along with many of the different types of people that Whitman mentions.  In this poem, he discusses the pioneers who forge ahead to lay the foundations of civilization.  It is those pioneers who are the ones to take up the "task eternal" of breaking through the frontiers, taming the world, creating a new civilization for mankind to dwell in.  He lists many different variations of the pioneers that will be the ones to take up this task.  A few:  "Western youths," "Colorado men," "resolute children," "workmen," "seamen," "landsmen," "masters and their slaves," "minstrels latent on the prairies," "silent lovers," "prisoners," "righteous and wicked," "joyous, all the sorrowing, all the living, all the dying."   All of these people are pioneers in different variations.  They are the men and women who forge ahead and do what it takes to expand the frontier.

How will they do this?  They are the ones who are "the route for travel clearing", who will climb

"Down the edges, through the passes, up the mountains steep, Conquering, holding, daring, venturing as we go the unknown ways."

They are the ones who are

"the rivers stemming, vexing we and piercing deep the mines within, We the surface broad surveying, we the virgin soil upheaving."

In other words, plowing, mining, foresting, exploring, mapping, journeying.  They will be the strong ones to do all of that hard work, to break their backs and sweat out a new land for us to settle.  It's not glamorous, but it is necessary, and Whitman is praising and adulating all of those non-glamorous but incredibly decent and hardworking people who did the grunt work so that we could all reap the benefits of their toil.

I hope that helps a bit!  Good luck!

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