As you’ve probably noticed, Walt Whitman and his work represent a sincere amount of transcendentalism and change in societal thought through a shift in focus, a strong one being realization in nature. In, When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer, the narrator hears a lecture from an astronomer and feels “tired and sick” about it. The narrator then goes outside and looks up at the stars. From this poem, Whitman may be trying to convey that leaving nature unsolved and mysterious is better than making nature become something systematic and confusing.
Do you agree with this analysis? Or do you see it differently? If you do agree, what identity of America does this offer to a reader? Also, why the phrase, “tired and sick” instead of the typical idiom, “sick and tired”?
Whitman said that “the proof of a poet is that his country absorbs him as affectionately as he has absorbed it.” He believed fully in the relationship between poet and society. This connection was especially emphasized in “Song of Myself” by using an all-powerful first-person narration. “Song of Myself” is considered an American epic; it deviated from the historic use of an elevated hero and instead assumed the identity of the common people.
What does this “American” epic style do for the growth and identity of an American literature?
Does the fact that Whitman wasn’t fully appreciated in his time confuse his quote about society?