When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer

by Walt Whitman
ISBN: 0689863977

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A Review of: when I heard the learnĘd astronomer
by Olga Stein

When I Heard the learn'd astronomer contains text based on a poem by Walt Whitman. There are only eleven lines, but each is meaningful and elegant. A young boy is made to put on a jacket and tie before attending, along with his parents, a lecture to be given at a university. Inside the neo-classic building a gathering of people awaits the lecture, and the boy, meanwhile, explores on his own, looking at scientific miscellanea. Loren Long's illustrations are haunting in their depiction of a child temporarily disconnected from the world of adults. Long captures the boy's solitariness even in the midst of a crowd but also his unwillingness to affect an interest in the science simply for the sake of fitting in. During the lecture, the boy grows tired and abandons his parents to wander about the surrounding gardens "In the mystical moist night-air / and from time to time, /Look'd up in perfect silence at the stars." Alone in the garden and gazing at the starry sky, he experiences that sense of wonder that eluded him earlier. The poem itself is a reminder that one doesn't need a trained eye and intellect to be moved and awed by the splendours of our world.

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