I was rummaging through an old poetry book at a used book sale when I came across this poem by American poet Walt Whitman (1819-1892). “When I Heard The Learn’d Astronomer” was written in 1865, and appeared in the 1881 edition of Leaves of Grass.
Space beyond any astronomer’s dreams
There is a step in Steps to Knowledge with which this poem vibrates very sympathetically. Step 326 of 365 steps is “The Greater Community is something I can feel but cannot understand.”
Space beyond any astronomer’s dreams. There are 9 steps in Steps to Knowledge where the phrase “Greater Community” is mentioned in the step itself. The first step is Step 187, “I am a citizen of the Greater Community of Worlds.”. The last step is Step 326. Part of the preparation of Steps to Knowledge is how an individual can prepare for humanity’s emergence into a greater community of intelligent life.
Space beyond any astronomer’s dreams. But for right now, I need poetry to even be able to think about things too great for me to bear. Who knows, maybe Walt Whitman felt a little bit of what I’m feeling now. I don’t believe Whitman bore any ill will toward the learn’d astronomer, merely that his configuration of inner lenses and mirrors had a different focus.
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 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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