The Beauty of Walt Whitman's When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer

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The Beauty of Walt Whitman's When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer My father is an amateur astronomer. It is his passion, after he comes home from work at the office, to wait outside in the fields surrounding our house with his 10" LX200 F6.3 telescope until all hours of the morning, waiting for the perfect shot of galaxies like NGC 7479 or M16. The next evening at dinner, despite being awake for over thirty hours, he speaks non-stop about how he finally got the perfect shot after five hours of painstaking positioning, how the galaxy, the nebula, the distant moon or dying star existed, or how it was turning back into scattered atoms leaving only a purplish ring of dust to prove it was ever there. A few weeks ago, an article in the…show more content…
Instead of asking "How does it work?" as is everyone else, he begins to ask "What do we gain by knowing?" And herein lies the beginning of the investigation Whitman undertakes through his poetry. The first four lines describe the experience the speaker had while in the lecture room. They don’t directly give away his feelings regarding what is going on around him; he leaves the reader to detect the attitude on his/her own. The first half could practically be construed as one long first line, since all four serve the same general purpose—that is, to subtly set the beginning tone while creating an adequate contrast with the last four lines of the poem. They seem to focus mainly on providing an accurate picture of the situation around the speaker, and are structurally more complex, providing a more straightforward description than the last four lines. Each line becomes progressively longer than the next, and the words Whitman chooses are rather flat and all quite literal in their meanings. This first half seems to be a forthright narrative describing his experience in the lecture hall. But delicate hints in the text itself insinuate his attitude toward the lecture and audience. The most conspicuous trend is Whitman’s application of repetition. The repetition of the beginning word "when" creates a monotonous, listing style also employed in the next three lines illustrating stylistically and

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