About this Poem 

Though the poem deals primarily with scientific and romantic themes, it was written in the midst of the Civil War and first appeared in Whitman's collection entitled Drum-Taps.

When I Heard the Learned Astronomer

Walt Whitman, 1819 - 1892
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.

This poem is in the public domain.

This poem is in the public domain.

Walt Whitman

Walt Whitman

Born on May 31, 1819, Walt Whitman is the author of Leaves of Grass and, along with Emily Dickinson, is considered one of the architects of a uniquely American poetic voice. 

by this poet

poem

Who has gone farthest? for I would go farther,
And who has been just? for I would be the most just person of the earth,
And who most cautious? for I would be more cautious,
And who has been happiest? O I think it is I—I think no one was ever happier than I,
And who has lavish'd all? for I lavish

poem
Delicate cluster! flag of teeming life!   
Covering all my lands! all my sea-shores lining!   
Flag of death! (how I watch'd you through the smoke of battle pressing!   
How I heard you flap and rustle, cloth defiant!)   
Flag cerulean! sunny flag! with the orbs of night dappled!
Ah my silvery beauty! ah my
poem
Thee for my recitative!
Thee in the driving storm even as now, the snow, the winter-day declining,	 
Thee in thy panoply, thy measur'd dual throbbing and thy beat convulsive,	 
Thy black cylindric body, golden brass, and silvery steel,	 
Thy ponderous side-bars, parallel and connecting rods, gyrating, shuttling