Sunday Night Journal, June 17, 2018
Sunday Night Journal, June 24, 2018

52 Poems, Week 25: When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer (Walt Whitman)

When I heard the learn’d astronomer,
When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me,
When I was shown the charts and diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them,
When I sitting heard the astronomer where he lectured with much applause in the lecture-room,
How soon unaccountable I became tired and sick,
Till rising and gliding out I wander’d off by myself,
In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,
Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars.


I'm not all that much of a Whitman fan, but I've always liked this since I read it in high school--or was it even earlier? It may have been the first Whitman I encountered.

—Mac is the proprietor of this blog


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I'm happy to see some Whitman this morning. It would have been bad if he had been left out of the year of poems.

I will confess that one reason I picked this poem over a couple of others I had in mind was that it's really short and wouldn't take much time to format. Plus it's easily found online so I didn't even have to type it in.

Well Stu, You could very easily have made sure that he wouldn't be left out.


For the greater part of my life I would have agreed with this poem 100%;however, being married to an amateur astronomer, I once attend a talk by an astronomer about gamma rays that was one of the most fascinating things I ever heard, even though I could not understand quite a bit of it. It was filled with wonder. It wasn't as wonderful as looking at the stars on a clear night, but it was like listening to a lover describe his beloved, and it wasn't hot and there were no bugs.


All I know is "I Sing the Body Electric", which is too long. After reading this I thought of Neil deGrasse Tyson, but he is also interesting to listen to.

Most of Whitman's work goes on too long. But he's very enjoyable in excerpts.

By no means did I intend this to be a criticism of scientific thinking in general. That is, I wouldn't say I "agree" or "disagree" with it. It's only one mood or incident. There is a local TV meteorologist who has the same gift as you describe in the astronomer. He obviously *loves* learning about the weather and talking about it. It's very infectious.

Glad I noticed before I posted that I had typed the last word above as "infections".

I quibbled with myself about the word "agree" but I was to lazy to do anything about it.


Yeah, it's only a blog comment. I sometimes force myself not to correct typos in my comments just to try to make myself be less compulsive about it.

Reminds me of when I took literature courses in college and how much I wanted to get back to simply getting lost in a story and not having to ponder all its deeper meanings and its stylistic devices.

When you heard the learn'd professor of literature....

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