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When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer

Walt Whitman

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2005-04-01
Added by: GLoria
basically, you can listen and bore yourself, or youcan chose to close your mouth and open your eyes and open your eyes in order to truely 'understand'. Science is one of those things better observed than read about.
2005-09-21
Added by: Emily
This poem is very simple, and means what it means... and it doesn't mean anything that we have read into it. But as long as the rest of you are speculating, I will add my comment. It is one thing to look up at the stars and think, "Gee, stars are so pretty. I wonder how many there are? How big IS space, anyway?" It's another thing to get some knowledge under your belt, understand more of the scientific aspects, gain more of a passion for the object of wonder, and THEN gaze up at the stars. Now that's amazing, and it makes you want to share this knowledge, just like the learn'd astronomer. Good for him, and good for the student for taking the time, whether while sick or not, to apply what he's learned.
2005-09-21
Added by: Emilie
i believe you are all beating a dead horse. it isn't about how scientific knowledge affects our admiration of the stars at all. or if that is what whitman intended, he too missed the mark. the knowledge gained from learning about the stars does not make me admire the stars more, but their creator. so i would assume whitman knew what he was doing and just left us to do the thinking, and admiring, of not only the words, but the writer. clever fellow.
When, when, when, when
2006-01-23
Added by: Amy
I love the structure of this poem; how the first four lines repeat "when"... it really gives the reader the same claustrophobia that the narrator must have felt in sitting there, getting sick on all the stupid things the Astronomer was doing.

I also think it's irony expressed when Whitman chooses to ease the narrator's claustrophobia by placing him beneath a sky full of stars. It seems that it's all the small things that makes the narrator sick in the first place, but in going out, observing a million zillion more "small things," he feels free.

Maybe Whitmas was also getting at how we view life. Up close, the Astronomer's ramblings and behavior seemed larger than life to the narrator... but the stars seemed perfect. We know that the stars are huge, but it's perspective that enabled the narrator to view one as tolerable and enlightening and the other as stifling.
2006-03-17
Added by: Mikey
Sean is definitely on to something, this poem express' the fact that there are some things you dont mess with. Nature cannot be analyzed without taking away from the beauty of it, you just have to look at it and think "Wow that's pretty cool!" I also think that there is more to the last few lines.
Nature needs no analysis
2006-05-10
Added by: Brandon
The stars in their silence speak more eloquently than the astronomer could if he lectured for a thousand years. As Lao Tzu said, He who talks, doesn't know, he who knows, doesn't talk.

I believe that is the overall sentiment.

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