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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

Come up from the fields father, here's a letter from our Pete, 
And come to the front door mother, here's a letter from thy
   dear son.

Lo, 'tis autumn, 
Lo, where the trees, deeper green, yellower and redder,
Cool and sweeten Ohio's villages with leaves fluttering in the
   moderate wind,
Where apples ripe in
          (From a talk I had lately with a German spiritualist)

Nothing is ever really lost, or can be lost,
No birth, identity, form—no object of the world.
Nor life, nor force, nor any visible thing;
Appearance must not foil, nor shifted sphere confuse thy brain.
Ample are time and space—ample the fields of
Whoever you are, I fear you are walking the walks of
I fear these supposed realities are to melt from under your 
   feet and hands,
Even now your features, joys, speech, house, trade, manners, 
   troubles, follies, costume, crimes, dissipate away from you,
Your true soul and body appear before me,