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Analysis


Symbols, Imagery, Wordplay

Welcome to the land of symbols, imagery, and wordplay. Before you travel any further, please know that there may be some thorny academic terminology ahead. Never fear, Shmoop is here. Check out our...

Form and Meter

The form and style of "When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer" are representative of almost all of Whitman's poetry. This poem is written in the poet's own particular brand of free verse, without a sp...

Speaker

The speaker reminds us a little bit of President Bill Clinton. He's very intelligent (did you know Bill Clinton was a Rhodes Scholar?), but he has the common touch. Bill Clinton got a lot of mileag...

Setting

Great painters know how to use just a few dabs of paint to create a setting. A few brushstrokes can indicate sunlight on a person's face, or trees in the distance. A lesser painter, on the other ha...

Sound Check

This poem sounds like blowing up a balloon and then letting it drift slowly away. The first four lines are four big puffs of air. Each line is meant to be spoken in one breath, and each breath begi...

What's Up With the Title?

Whitman decided that he liked the first line of his poem so much that he would use it as his title. He likes to repeat himself, and the repetition of the title and the first line adds to the chanti...

Calling Card

"Anaphora" is a term from the science of rhetoric, or the use of language as a form of persuasion. Whitman wrote his best poems around the middle of the 19th century, a time when political rhetoric...

Tough-O-Meter

"When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer" is frequently taught in introductory poetry classes. We have a sneaking suspicion that poetry teachers love it because it takes not-so-subtle digs at math and...

Brain Snacks

Sex Rating

Leave it to Whitman to write a sexy poem without using overtly sexual language. The first half has us squirming in our seats in the lecture hall. In the second half, he takes us into the "mystical...
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