November 17, 2011

Whitman and the Astronomer: Advice for Us All


On Tuesday, in my ramble about “Lessons Learned,” I mentioned “nature deficit disorder.” That phrase describes the negative effect that prolonged removal from the natural world – the great outdoors – has on us. I learned, over these past months of confinement indoors, that I am susceptible. Enough with the tyranny of the morning newspaper. Turn off the TV with all those yammering talking heads. Go outside, look, listen, and be quiet!

My friend Larry replied, and gave me “something to think about while on my porch.” I had never encountered this poem by the great Walt Whitman (pictured above in communion with a butterfly), and liked it so much I wanted to share it here. Thank you, Larry.

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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 the 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.
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Re-reading this poem, I smiled... recalling the personal pledge I made when I retired -- to NEVER AGAIN get involved in anything that required attending business meetings. (But I love going to the author talks at Politics & Prose, Washington's treasured independently-owned bookstore. I've yet to hear a talk by a "learn'd astronomer," however.)

8 comments:

Thierry said...

Here's another, John. Take Mary's "jump."
http://www.orionmagazine.org/index.php/articles/poem/351/

Ginseng L. said...

And here I thot I'd seen every picture of Whitman. Where did you find this one?

B. Jorkins said...

lucky whitman. he had the benefit of admiring the night sky before light pollution messed it up. imagine what the ancients must have seen and felt, looking up, through all the millenia before pollution of any kind. *sigh*

John said...

Yeah. I had one or two nights on my August travels through the Pacific NW when I actually got a glimpse of the heavens w/o the light pollution. As enjoyable as it was rare.

John said...

Her poem reminds that one of the things I like about 
DC is that I can get to that place where "the town ends and the field begins" more quickly and easily than in most other cities I know. 

Keith said...

found your blog by accident (?) while researching a poem by whitman on aging. I read this and a couple of other posts and am impressed, intrigued and now . .  a new follower.  

John said...

Welcome on board.  I'd be interested in  any comments and suggestions you might have now and in the future.

John said...

The photo came from the Library of Congress site. See

http://www.loc.gov/pictures/resource/cph.3b24247/

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