Saturday, April 12, 2008

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

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 the 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 month is proving too crazy to post a poem a day for National Poetry Month again, but I am going to try to share some old favorites, and I hope you are all out there reading and writing and reciting and remembering it every day of the year.


  1. I told myself that I would do the poem a day thing, too, and I've yet to post one. So you're one step ahead of me, anyway, with the mid-month mark lingering in the near future. And nice choice!

  2. This is beautiful.
    My all-time favorite is John Clare's "I Am" May I post it here?

    I am: yet what I am none cares or knows,
    My friends forsake me like a memory lost;
    I am the self-consumer of my woes,
    They rise and vanish in oblivious host,
    Like shades in love and death's oblivion lost;
    And yet I am, and live with shadows tost

    Into the nothingness of scorn and noise,
    Into the living sea of waking dreams,
    Where there is neither sense of life nor joys,
    But the vast shipwreck of my life's esteems;
    And e'en the dearest - that I loved the best -
    Are strange - nay, rather stranger than the rest.

    I long for scenes where man has never trod,
    A place where woman never smiled or wept;
    There to abide with my Creator, God,
    And sleep as I in childhood sweetly slept:
    Untroubling and untroubled where I lie,
    The grass below - above the vaulted sky.

  3. Beautiful, Cheryl and Christine. My favorite stanza from my favorite poem:

    And the afternoon, the evening, sleeps so peacefully!
    Smoothed by long fingers,
    Asleep … tired … or it malingers,
    Stretched on the floor, here beside you and me.
    Should I, after tea and cakes and ices,
    Have the strength to force the moment to its crisis?
    But though I have wept and fasted, wept and prayed,
    Though I have seen my head [grown slightly bald] brought in upon a platter,
    I am no prophet—and here’s no great matter;
    I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker,
    And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker,
    And in short, I was afraid.

    from The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, T.S. Eliot


  4. Ya know... as one writing and posting original poetry every day this month, I often wonder what folks like Whitman or Eliot woulda done in the internet age. And then I figure they'd've posted 30 poems in April of the same caliber as the ones here. And then I drink heavily in depression. But thanks for sharing! :-)

  5. Dead poet's Society, is what I was reminded of :) Walt Whitman makes poetry such an exotic adventure.

    Well, I'm not American and the poem I'm putting down here is not by an American poet but well, it's poetry all the same and I hope, that by reading a poem a day, I can celebrate a Poetry Month too, it's such a WONDERFUL idea..

    It's by W B Yeats; I first read it in "The Bridges of Madison County". I've read lots of Yeats since but this one (and one called The Coat) remain my favourites till date..

    The Song Of Wandering Aengus

    I went out to the hazel wood,
    Because a fire was in my head,
    And cut and peeled a hazel wand,
    And hooked a berry to a thread;

    And when white moths were on the wing,
    And moth-like stars were flickering out,
    I dropped the berry in a stream
    And caught a little silver trout.

    When I had laid it on the floor
    I went to blow the fire a-flame,
    But something rustled on the floor,
    And some one called me by my name:
    It had become a glimmering girl
    With apple blossom in her hair
    Who called me by my name and ran
    And faded through the brightening air.

    Though I am old with wandering
    Through hollow lands and hilly lands,
    I will find out where she has gone,
    And kiss her lips and take her hands;
    And walk among long dappled grass,
    And pluck till time and times are done
    The silver apples of the moon,
    The golden apples of the sun.

  6. That's my favorite Whitman; thanks for reminding me of it.

  7. *sheepishly!* Oh and It's "A coat", not "The Coat"..