When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer

by Walt Whitman

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Where is the poet in the second half of "When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer"?

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In the second half of the poem, the speaker leaves behind the lecture hall, where he'd previously been listening to the astronomer, and goes wandering off outside to gaze at the stars.

The astronomer may be learned and may know everything there is to know about the stars as objects of study, but one thing he doesn't have is an aesthetic appreciation of the stars as things of great beauty. The astronomer sees the stars one way, the speaker another. To the astronomer, they're nothing more than luminous spheroids of plasma held together by their own gravity. But to the speaker, a man with the soul of an artist, they are so much more than that. As well as being beautiful, the stars also inspire a silent, reverential awe in the face of creation.

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