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DonRocks

"When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer" (1865) - by Walt Whitman

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There are many analyses of "When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer," an 1865, single-stanza, free-verse poem by the great Walt Whitman.

You can go to the link and read the poem in less than thirty seconds.

Most analyses - perhaps every analysis - I've read have described it as rejecting bookish knowledge in favor of life's wisdom, but I disagree with such a banal interpretation. In fact, if this was Whitman's "intent" when he wrote the poem, I disagree with Whitman himself.

There are two people in the poem: the writer (speaking in first person) and the lecturer, and I propose that the poem isn't a criticism of the lecturer, but rather a celebration of what went into the lecture. 

Yes, you can reject all academia, and appreciate the simplicity of nature without the physics behind it, but you can also appreciate physics - not as some boring, obligatory use of calculus, but the actual mathematical definition of the way the universe works - and once you see the actual universe, and link the two together, you'll have a newfound appreciation for the science that attempts to describe it all.

The writer, who grew ill at the lecture, had an awakening once he realized what the lecture was about - surely this wasn't the first time he ever looked up at the night sky; his catharsis was a newfound appreciation of the engine that was driving the lecturer.

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