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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

Sometimes with one I love I fill myself with rage for fear I effuse
   unreturn'd love,
But now I think there is no unreturn'd love, the pay is certain
   one way or another,
(I loved a certain person ardently and my love was not return'd,
Yet out of that I have written these songs.)

poem
When I heard at the close of the day how my name had been receiv'd with
     plaudits in the capitol, still it was not a happy night for me that follow'd;   
And else, when I carous'd, or when my plans were accomplish'd, still I was not happy;   
But the day when I rose at dawn from the bed of perfect health,
poem
Spontaneous me, Nature,   
The loving day, the mounting sun, the friend I am happy with,   
The arm of my friend hanging idly over my shoulder,   
The hill-side whiten’d with blossoms of the mountain ash,   
The same, late in autumn—the hues of red, yellow, drab, purple, and light and dark green,
The rich