When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer Summary & Study Guide

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Lines 1—2

"When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer" begins by repeating the title, something that often occurs in Whitman's poetry and gives extra weight to the first phrase, to set up the idea that the speaker is listening to an educated scientist. This phrase also stands out because of its internal rhyme, or rhyme within the same line, of "heard" with "learn'd." This is also a slant rhyme, or an inexact rhyme, since "learn'd" has an "n" sound unlike "heard," but it nevertheless emphasizes a sense of repetition. The slant rhyme even gives the first line an impression of awkwardness, since it is difficult to pronounce and uses the same long vowel sound twice in a row.

The other element of the first line to notice is use of the contracted version of "learned." Whitman frequently contracts words such as this, which would always be spelled out...

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This section contains 1,140 words
(approx. 3 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.