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                Walt Whitman (1819-1892)

          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.


This poem can be found in:
  • Whitman, Walt. Drum-Taps. New York, 1865. (as found in Walt Whitman's Drum-Taps and Sequel to Drum-Taps: A Facsimile Reproduction Edited with an Introduction by F. DeWolfe Miller Gainesville, FL: Scholar's Facsimiles & Reprints, 1959.)
  • Ferguson, Margaret, Mary Jo Salter, and Jon Stallworthy, eds. The Norton Anthology of Poetry (Fourth Edition). New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1996.

    While more commonly known from later editions of Leaves of Grass, the above poem, as well as O Captain! My Captain, When Lilacs, and Chanting the Square Deific, first appeared in Drum-Taps and Sequel to Drum-Taps. Miller describes the difficulties Whitman had in getting these two works published.