“When I Heard the Learn’d 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.
-Walt Whitman

Last night I spent some time playing around Star Walk on my iPhone making sure I was ready for a short presentation I’ll be doing today. It reminded of this poem by Walt Whitman. I like Whitman’s poetry in general, but this is a particular favorite. It is simple for Whitman–short, straightforward, but still profound. I so relate to that antsy feeling when I’m overwhelmed by something and just have to GET OUT (and, goodness knows, math can do that to me pretty darn quick), and then there is one of my favorite phrases of all time, “the mystical moist night-air.” And, always, the stars.

Jama’s rounding up Poetry Friday today. Don’t miss the donuts and cookies!

8 Comments

  1. momster
    Posted October 21, 2011 at 6:42 am | Permalink

    You wanted to be an astronomer at a very early age.It was when we watched Cosmos,with Carl Sagan(sp?).You also wanted to be a geologist.You had a little geology kit we explored with.You had an early interest in such things:-)Including poetry;-)

  2. Posted October 21, 2011 at 7:51 am | Permalink

    Such a lovely, lovely poem – it took me some time to love Walt Whitman, because I had an English teacher whose primary purpose in life was to question the man’s sexuality, and I just didn’t want to even hear it, so avoided the poet altogether. Silly me. (Stupid teacher.)

  3. Posted October 21, 2011 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

    What a lovely poem. I also love the “mystical moist night-air” :). Hope your presentation went well today!

  4. adrienne
    Posted October 21, 2011 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

    Momster, You were exerting influence over me in much the same way I now influence Lucas and Max. Mua-ha-ha.

    Tanita, It seems to me that instructors tend to bring poets’ personal lives into the classroom more frequently than they do novelists’, and why? I often hear people say that it was some biographical thing that turned people off a poet or prevented them from appreciating a poet’s work.

    Jama, It went okay. I was presenting with a group, and I was the most informal presenter by far. For instance, I pointed out how Lucas and I like to use Star Walk to find “Uranus” because to an eleven-year-old (and me), that’s hilarious.

  5. Posted October 22, 2011 at 2:20 am | Permalink

    Leaves of Grass would always remain my favorite Walt Whitman book of all time. I love this poem that you shared here. peace and quiet with the stars after the noisy applause indoors. :)

  6. adrienne
    Posted October 22, 2011 at 11:42 am | Permalink

    I have two copies of Leaves of Grass here at the house, one for upstairs and one for downstairs. Best to keep them close at hand for emergencies.

  7. Posted October 27, 2011 at 7:47 am | Permalink

    Star Walk? Got to check that out. My full moon tour of the arboretum was cancelled due to weather. I hope to reschedule.

    How about an app that reads you Whitman while you gaze up at the universe? Oh. I guess that’s called an audio recording.

    I do have that Poetry Speaks collection which I haven’t pulled out in awhile.

  8. adrienne
    Posted October 27, 2011 at 11:24 am | Permalink

    I am sorry to hear that walk got canceled, Sara. It sounded so cool.

    I think you’d like the Star Walk app. It’s one of my favorite things on my phone.

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