Happy Birthday Walt Whitman

Today marks the birthday of the late, great poet Walt Whitman. To celebrate his life and work I’ve thought it be apt to share a poem of his. Katie Hale also posted one of his most famous poems on this blog not long ago. ‘O Captain! My Captain!’ . To view this post click here.

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 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.

Carpe Diem

Today we’re going for something a little different: a philosophy rather than a poem. Though of course, it is poetry related. If it weren’t, it wouldn’t be on our site.

Carpe diem.

‘Seize the day’.

It’s a Latin phrase, largely popularised by the filmDead Poets’ Society.

If you haven’t already seen Dead Poets’ Society, I would recommend watching it sooner rather than later. It’s a must for any aspiring writer / poet / artist – or just for anyone who wants to take a hold of life and run with it. Not to mention, it’s a tear jerker (though no more on that – we wouldn’t want to ruin the ending).

Here’s the famous ‘Carpe Diem’ clip from the film:

Tastebuds tantalised? Go and watch the rest! You won’t be disappointed.

And in case you’re interested, here are the poems mentioned in the clip in their entirety:


To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time:
by Robert Herrick

Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
   Old Time is still a-flying;
And this same flower that smiles today
   Tomorrow will be dying.

The glorious lamp of heaven, the sun, 
   The higher he's a-getting,
The sooner will his race be run,
   And nearer he's to setting.

That age is best which is the first,
   When youth and blood are warmer;
But being spent, the worse, and worst
   Times still succeed the former. 

Then be not coy, but use your time,
   And while ye may, go marry;
For having lost but once your prime,
   You may forever tarry.



O Captain! My Captain!
by Walt Whitman

O CAPTAIN! my Captain! our fearful trip is done;
The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won;
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring:
But O heart! heart! heart!
O the bleeding drops of red,
Where on the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.

O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;
Rise up–for you the flag is flung–for you the bugle trills;
For you bouquets and ribbon’d wreaths–for you the shores a-crowding;
For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;
Here Captain! dear father!
This arm beneath your head;
It is some dream that on the deck,
You’ve fallen cold and dead.

My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still;
My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will;
The ship is anchor’d safe and sound, its voyage closed and done;
From fearful trip, the victor ship, comes in with object won;
Exult, O shores, and ring, O bells!
But I, with mournful tread,
Walk the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.

And just in case we hadn’t spoiled you enough, here’s a video with Vincent Price reading Whitman’s poem:


Poems taken from: