Walt Whitman, generally ignored in his time, has come to be recognized as a great poet among the American romantics. His works emphasize romantic ideals such as reverence towards nature, examination of the inner self, and distaste for scientific thought. Whitman's poems piece together life lessons and observations of existence into a message which promotes reader based reflection. His strongest works are debatable, but his poems with the strongest messages remain clear. "When I Heard the Learned Astronomer," "A noiseless patient spider," and "A Clear Midnight" each present a fascinating insight into the nature of human existence.
"When I Heard the Learned Astronomer" describes a speaker who is unaccountably disgusted by an astronomy lecture, but feels better once he leaves to look at the stars. This discontent with categorical and unimaginative scientific thought is an important point of romantic ideals. The emotional bounty of this poem is the message of loving the mystical qualities of nature versus the unenthusiastic charts and figures provided by science. It advocates a respect and awe for the natural world, as well as a desire to experience it and in turn one's own inner being.
Whitman utilizes many poetic devices to deliver his message. The first four lines of the poem begin with the world when, and proceed to catalog various images associated with science and research. This technique is used to demonstrate how the astronomer's lecture is a mental onslaught which ceaselessly ignores the grander parts of nature and instead obsesses over numbers and statistics. Once the speaker exits the lecture, the poem becomes less frantic and more contemplative. The speaker is free to ignore scientific endeavors and just enjoy the tranquility of the night sky.
There are other poetic devices that assist the poem's message. Simple diction and shortness aid the clarity of the poem, allowing the reader to extract the essence of it without being bogged down in...
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