What Is the Effect of the First Four Lines of Walt Whitman's “When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer” Beginning with the Word “When”?

Topics: Poetry, Attention, Sentence Pages: 2 (549 words) Published: October 17, 2010
“When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer” begins by repeating the title. This phrase also stands out because of it’s a rhyme within the same line, of “heard” with “learn’d.” This poem talks about an astronomer lecturing the narrator's class. The narrator becomes tired and sick implying he is bored by the class and dazes off to his own world. While he thinks the class is boring, the audiences give the astronomer plenty of applause in the lecture room. Whitman uses repetition, starting the first four lines with ¨when” to highlight how boring the class is. This also shows an arranged and tensed feeling and is complicated through his choice of words. He uses words such as proofs, figures, columns, charts, and diagrams to support the systematic astronomer lecture. The systematic words show a strict sense of science, different nature not having an orderly manner. The writer finds it extremely dull to view nature in a scientific way. Whitman shows how the class is uninteresting compared to when the narrator dazes off in his wonderland, and looks up in silence at the stars. From the second line, the readers feel that the astronomer was very smart because he presented a lot of proofs and figures on the board. He presented the information very neatly; they were arranged in columns, and were very organized. The last three lines show how nature should not be viewed in a systematic way, but with a Romantic attitude. Mystical moist night-air and perfect silence at the stars show a comfortable feeling and inner peace towards the stars in the sky. It also slows relaxation compared to the tensed lecture. The attitudes toward science and nature are very contrasting in this poem. Although it seems like the narrator loves astronomy, he feels bored in this lecture class. The narrator simply loves the beauty of nature. However, when nature is approached with a scientific perspective, it changes his view from interesting to boring. The first four lines are adverbial “when” clauses: when...
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