Today marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of the great and good American poet, essayist, and humanist Walt Whitman. Sometimes called the ‘father of free verse’, Whitman was often beheld as the key to understanding America as it was in the promising days of late 19th century, after the Civil War. He was also, in my view, the poet laureate of stargazers everywhere, especially on account of two of his poems ‘When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer’ and ‘A Clear Midnight’, reproduced below for your reading pleasure.
“A Clear Midnight”
This is thy hour O Soul, thy free flight into the wordless,
Away from books, away from art, the day erased, the lesson done,
Thee fully forth emerging, silent, gazing, pondering the themes
thou lovest best,
Night, sleep, death and the stars.
“When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer”
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 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.
Or enjoy the latter poem in the video format below (which is likely the only time you will ever see a video from ‘Breaking Bad’ on this website):Share This: