Walt Whitman Writing Styles in When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer

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Diction

One of Whitman's most important stylistic devices in "When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer" is his extremely careful choice of wording, or diction. When, in lines 2 and 3, the meaning of the poem stresses the ordered and categorical process of science and mathematics, Whitman's language is full of mathematical words such as "proofs," "figures," "charts," and "measure." Or, when he is attempting to suggest the actual and magnificent nature of the night sky, Whitman describes the speaker's wandering with the words, "rising and gliding," which suggest the behavior of the stars or astronomical bodies themselves. This language is not simply descriptive; it is meant to bring out the poet's thematic goals because of the resonance of the words in the reader's mind.

Another example of the importance of diction to the poem is Whitman's use of the common language of everyday speech, such as the contraction "learn'd" for "learned...

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This section contains 553 words
(approx. 2 pages at 400 words per page)
Buy the When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer Study Guide
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Poetry for Students
When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer from Poetry for Students. ©2005-2006 Thomson Gale, a part of the Thomson Corporation. All rights reserved.