When I heard the Learn’d Astronomer.

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 the diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them;
When I, sitting, heard the astronomer, where he lectured with much applause in the
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.

Analysis, meaning and summary of Walt Whitman's poem When I heard the Learn’d Astronomer.


  1. Mahala says:

    This poem elaborates solely on the life of an excitement dulled and drained by the apparent reality that overtakes and monotonizes it. Bringing ones excitement of the inpending unknown into the drab grasp of finding out and then back to the blissfulness of ignorance and simplicity.

  2. Uknown says:

    I don’t know. this poem is uhm, weird but somewhat mystical.

  3. Christopher29 says:

    I completely agree that the knowledge you can gain from an intellectual can make you forget to learn from a sensual aspect and admire the beauty but I do also believe that one such as Whitman can get too caught up in the holistic experience and forget to return to the other aspect. How can you expect to call yourself more knowledgable than the proffesor if all you do is daydream and look at the stars. Life requires a balance in all aspects. Whitman was very charismatic and good in the english language but how can one say that they are more intelligent than the astronomer just because they admire the stars. We might not see the astronomer during his time of meditation.

  4. Lola says:

    I really enjoyed this poem. It really made me think!!

  5. yeats says:

    It is said that science murders of the beautyof art. By science discovery, fantastic fairies are broke. But does science bring material wealthy?

  6. DaHaz (MY) says:

    Like many have said before me, I believe that Whitman is trying to communicate the fact that the scientific process is inferior to a natural, romantic, and personal interaction with the subject beings studied. (This is pretty evident in the diction of the poem–how it changes…)

  7. Shaoyu says:

    After I have read so many comments, a sentence from Keats comes into my mind:”Beauty is truth, truth beauty”

  8. Nayoung says:

    reading this poem, i can see that the writer is trying to show the contrast between the boredom being in the classroom, being lectured about the “nature” to the amazemant actually go out there and being in it and feel it by oneself.

  9. elif says:

    astronomy looks at the stars from a scinetific point of view, from a mathematical aspect; but Whitman, bored of the course he is taking at the time, looked at the stars from such an aspect that he even wandered among them…

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