A Whitman Parody Challenge

Walt_WhitmanWalt Whitman (1819-1892) was an amazing American poet whose writings contain both idealistic Romanticism and Realism. In this blog’s “Resonating Quotes” widget on the right, the second quote is Whitman’s — take a look — it reflects his breadth.

I am, however, not a fan of Romanticism, nor of Idealism and when I experimented with poetry myself (on this blog), I found many amateur poets trying to sound poetic by fluffing their poetry with feeble romanticism. See my post on “Defining Poetry” where I show that anti-science romanticism is a huge bias of many poets. Worse than their anti-science nonsense, many folks feel that their weak ideas are protected within the hallowed grounds of a poem. I disagree — nothing is sacred.

I get a daily poem in my morning mail box from Garrison Keillor’s fantastic “The Writer’s Almanac” and today’s poem was this one by Walt Whitman:

When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer

by Walt Whitman

When I heard the learn’d astronomer,
When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before
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.

After reading the anti-science spin in Whitman’s poem, I decided to playfully make up my own pro-science poem to counter his ideas.

After reading my poem below, show your opinion of this post by sharing your own poem — either a parody or a sympathetic poem.   Please resist prose in this comment thread, stick to poetry as a communication tool.  That is the challenge.

So here is my poem:

When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer

by Sabio Lantz

When I heard the learn’d astronomer,
speak of connections between the stars:
of energy, gravity and formulas
that we share from oh so far.

I then wandered that night in a field of dark,
looking up at the deep silent sky
where equations now livened the stars
and my walk became more alive.



Filed under Philosophy & Religion

12 responses to “A Whitman Parody Challenge

  1. Criticize Romanticism we may,
    for nothing is sacred indeed,
    but how ironic to criticize their creed
    when nothing is sacred indeed!

  2. @ consoledreader:

    On Irony
    Irony is a Tu Quoque –
    a herring rubbed across a trail,
    that a tracking hound lose its way
    vainly chasing its own sad tail.

  3. Lutek

    I strolled one night ‘neath endlessless, starry skies
    and wondered of eternal, sparkling realms.
    And then I heard th’astronomer explain
    with confidence, how it all came to be
    And then the how was very plain to me.

    And yet, my sleep was restless on that night
    The question left unanswered still was, “Why?”
    Why should there anything exist at all?
    And finally the answer came to me:
    It’s just because we all are here to see.

  4. @ Luket:

    On Purpose

    Purpose is the fearful heart’s demand
    that awe be personal and not just sand
    that blows away with each light breeze
    to never take form that looks like me.

  5. Lutek

    It’s said the quest for purpose comes from fear,
    But fear I vanquished many years ago.
    Yet asking why need not imply intent
    First cause seems to be implicated, though
    just what that means is hard for me to know.

  6. @ Lutek 😉

    On First Cause
    First and last are bound by common sense
    great and least are also in her vase.
    Loosened, our stories flounder in the wind,
    so Pandora hides her guilty face.

    Yet as quantum wind rages ‘cross the land,
    “First cause” and other tales are band.
    Yet sad men, to Pandora still declare:
    “Upon certainty, I’d rather take my stand.”

  7. Lutek

    Yet awe and wonder still inspire in me
    desire to understand reality.
    But understanding’s not just sparks and waves
    nor does desire in quantum ways behave,
    At least, that’s how it looks from Plato’s cave.

    Best not to take a certain stand at all.
    Though stand one must; yet, be prepared to fall.
    For footing always is unsure at best.
    Now that Pandora’s jar is loosed, no rest
    until the Reaper ends each mortal’s quest.

  8. @ Lutek:

    On Awe and Wonder
    ’Tis a shame to throw cloaks and shawls
    o’er Awe’s raw and glorious succulence.
    Abstractions dull Her beauty.
    Theologies tear at her insanity.

    What a shame to stifle Wonder’s fragrant lust
    with ideal, transcendent jargon.
    Let her wander free and wild
    As your youth withers away.

  9. Lutek

    @ Sabio:
    Theology cloaks awe and wonder, true –
    The same could well be said of science, too.

  10. I don’t believe poems are subject
    to the rules of argumentation.
    This would be but one way
    I disagree with your presentation.

    Loki often smirks in heaven
    at how often you commit his wager.
    how dare we decide on definitions!
    and like a Sophist no idea favor.

    Science is dandy for learning
    about the world in which we live,
    but poetry seeks experience,
    how we see it and meanings we give.

    It may be in reality,
    we’re no greater than the apes,
    but purpose is for me to decide,
    the meaning of life for me to shape.

    Poems are not just arguments,
    nor a gaudy bauble jewel.
    it is experience re-sown,
    it is the imagination’s tool.

    Science is not just cures for cancer,
    so the ghosts of soldiers moan,
    beside the victims of Hiroshima
    who never again shall see home.
    The Romantics had a point it seems,
    in seeing more to life than facts.
    To pride imagination, and not just numbers,
    like a magnet field attracts.

    True, it’s not always either/or.
    And sympathetic to your poem I am.
    But your critique seems extreme,
    and a bit of a Strawman.

  11. To agree, or not to agree? That is the question—
    Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to different opinions
    The slings and arrows of outrageous claims,
    Or to take arms against a sea of confusion,
    And, by opposing, end them?

  12. Earnest

    The reason for my presence here
    Is spending time as sleep time nears.
    the funeral for my dead cellphone past,
    I lay down my head at last.

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