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"When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer" by Walt Whitman Analysis

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Casey Beckum

on 2 March 2013

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Transcript of "When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer" by Walt Whitman Analysis

"When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer" Analysis By: Casey Beckum, Kaylee Crenshaw, Bailey Parker, and Caleb Risher - When he was 11, he left school to work in a printing business because his family needed money.
- He became a teacher at 17.
- In 1841, he went into journalism. He started a weekly paper titled The Long-Islander.
- He was against slavery.
- During the Civil War, he worked part-time in the paymaster's office and in his spare time visited wounded soldiers.
- Wanted to take on many different occupations to experience new things. Speaker and Audience - SPEAKER: The speaker is not specifically stated, but it could possibly be Walt Whitman shadowing an astronomer.

- AUDIENCE: The speaker could be anyone who analyzes nature instead of enjoying the beauty of it. Diction, Mood, and Tone - DICTION: Whitman's use of the word "when"
creates a feeling of confusion.
His use of the phrase "tired and sick" was chosen to express boredom and disgust.
The word "mystical" portrays the night as magical and beautiful.
- MOOD: The mood starts with disgust, boredom and confusion and transitions into a mood of epiphany and peace.
-TONE: Whitman created a tone that is casual and conversational. Line by Line Analysis - "When I heard the learn'd astronomer..."The narrator is listening to an educated astronomer give a lecture"When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me"He is watching the astronomer give scientific facts regarding the night sky."When I was shown the charts and diagrams to add, divide, and measure them"He is confused and has to complete mathematical problems about the stars."When I, sitting, heard the astronomer, where he lectured with much applause in the lecture-room"He listens to the applause that the astronomer gets after his lecture"How soon unaccountable I became tired and sick"He is bored and slightly disgusted by the astronomer's lecture."Till rising and gliding out, I wandered off by myself"He stands and leaves the astronomer's lecture, and he goes off alone."In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,"He finds the night magical and beautiful."Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars."He realizes that the stars are beautiful without the mathematics and science behind them. Examples of Imagery "perfect silence..."
"mystical, moist night air.."
"ranged in columns before me..." Figurative Language - JUXTAPOSITION: An act or instance of placing two things close together or side by side. This is often done in order to compare/contrast the two, to show similarities or differences.
- Whitman uses juxtaposition when changing the view of the stars from "charts and diagrams" to "perfect silence."


- METAPHOR: Whitman uses the word "glide" as a metaphor symbolizing the relief the narrator feels when leaving the lecture room. FORM:
FREE VERSE (NOT "free flowing") SOUND DEVICES - REPETITION: Whitman repeats the word "when" for the first half of the poem.
- ALLITERATION: "mystical moist"
"time to time"
- ASSONANCE: "I became tired and sick"
- CONSONANCE: "heard and learn'd" What's it about? "When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer" is about realizing the beauty of nature instead of analyzing the mathematical and scientific aspects of it. Whitman wants his audience to break free of the stereotypical expectations of education and discover the emotional and beautiful forms of the world around us. Walt Whitman
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