When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer
When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer
by Walt Whitman

When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer Summary

The speaker remembers sitting at a lecture. He is politely listening with his hands folded in his lap. He watches as the lecturer, a famous and renowned astronomer, goes on and on (and on) about the stars. Except he isn't talking about the stars. He's talking about equations and numbers and funny-looking pictures that seem to have nothing to do with the stars. The speaker is disappointed. Where are the stars?!

Suddenly he doesn't feel so good. His eyes droop. He feels nauseous, even. If he doesn't get out of that room, he's gonna hurl…

"Excuse me…'scuse me…sorry!" He gets up and heads for the exit. He walks outside and, what a difference! He is alone, and the night air feels fresh and dewy. He wanders away from the lecture hall. Every so often, he looks up at the sky, and there they are: the stars. Beautiful. No words of explanation could possibly capture them.

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