Walt Whitman: Poems

Walt Whitman's When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer

In the poem “When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer,” Walt Whitman writes of a speaker who is exposed to the knowledge of the stars in the sky and the Milky Way galaxies, but is restricted from fathoming a deeper understanding in those observed phenomena. Through the analysis of the central problem the speaker presents, Whitman forces readers to think beyond scientific calculations and hard facts. By emanating the power, beauty, and mystery of the universe through the style of the poem and through the speaker’s own journey in discovering the world, Whitman not only reveals the many facets of the universe that mere numbers and diagrams cannot sum up, but also criticizes the scientific perspective by offering readers a more romantic and imaginative perspective that yield a deeper appreciation. Through the speaker’s ultimate end with peace and revelation of beauty and mystique, Whitman promotes the conceptions of solitude and non-conformity to society’s fast-paced developments and beliefs.

Whitman creatively designs the first four lines of “When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer” with repetition of phrases, parallel structure, and clever sound rhymes to disclose the central problem the speaker faces. The first line of the poem repeats...

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