Happy Birthday Walt

Today was Cornell’s graduation. A glorious end-of-May day here, but frankly I”m just glad to be done. A brutal year teaching for a variety of reasons, and it really wore me down. But all the grades are in, just a few committee meetings now, and I have the summer to relax, drink some good beer, and try to get some writing done.

This weekend we also celebrate Walt Whitman’s birthday. The great American poet was born May 31 1819 and in his honor, here’s a short poem:

WHEN I HEARD THE LEARN’D ASTRONOMER

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 the 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.

Now, I’m not sure what my choice of this poem says about my state of mind right now. It’s true that graduation gives me a good feeling about what we do as teachers. Then again, I feel a bit disillusioned after some of my experiences this year. I also often feel more in line with Whitman here, wondering what it is we really  do in the face of experience itself. I suppose I have the summer to think about it, though; perhaps reading Leaves of Grass again would do me some good.

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