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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

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
Unfolded out of the folds of the woman, man comes unfolded,
       and is always to come unfolded;   
Unfolded only out of the superbest woman of the earth, is to come the
       superbest man of the earth;   
Unfolded out of the friendliest woman, is to come the friendliest man;   
Unfolded only out of the
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1

To conclude—I announce what comes after me;   
I announce mightier offspring, orators, days, and then, for the present, depart. 
   
I remember I said, before my leaves sprang at all,   
I would raise my voice jocund and strong, with reference to consummations.   
   
When America does what was promis’d,
When
poem
Out of the cradle endlessly rocking,
Out of the mocking-bird's throat, the musical shuttle,
Out of the Ninth-month midnight,
Over the sterile sands and the fields beyond, where the child 
   leaving his bed wander'd alone, bareheaded, barefoot,
Down from the shower'd halo,
Up from the mystic play of shadows