O western orb sailing the heaven,

Now I know what you must have meant as a month since I walk’d,

As I walk’d in silence the transparent shadowy night,

As I saw you had something to tell as you bent to me night after night,

As you droop’d from the sky low down as if to my side, (while the other stars all look’d on,)

As we wander’d together the solemn night, (for something I know not what kept me from sleep,)

As the night advanced, and I saw on the rim of the west how full you were of woe,

As I stood on the rising ground in the breeze in the cool transparent night,

As I watch’d where you pass’d and was lost in the netherward black of the night,

As my soul in its trouble dissatisfied sank, as where you sad orb,

Concluded, dropt in the night, and was gone.

This is the section 8 of "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d" by Walt Whitman. I have some problems:

  1. What he means by as a month since I walk’d in second line?

  2. The use of "low down" is just redundant?

  3. "As I watch’d where you pass’d and was lost", if the subject is you, why he used "was"?

2 Answers 2

  1. The since in as a month since I walk’d means 'ago'. It's a usage I haven't heard since my Northumbrian grandparents died, and I think it may have been more common up there in the North, and in Scotland, than in the rest of England.

Walter Scott's novel Waverley is properly called:

Or, 'Tis Sixty Years Since.

From Supplement to 'Six Months in a Convent', by Rebecca T. Read, 1835:

I am surprised at what the Superior says in her answer, viz., “she did not know till some months since that Miss Reed ever had any pretensions to the name of Mary Agnes.”

  1. Perhaps "low down" is a little redundant. It is certainly emphatic. In everyday speech perhaps we would say, As you droop’d right down from the sky as if to my side.
  2. In "As I watch’d where you pass’d and was lost", the word "was" tells us that it is he who was lost, not the 'orb'(1). "where you pass'd" is a subordinate clause, though really the whole poem, from the first 'as', in line two, to the end, consists of a subordinate clause.

(1) I mistakenly said the orb was the moon. Connoisseur corrected me. It is clearly the planet Venus.


Full moons - and every other phase of the moon - appear at intervals of approximately a monnth. So, when Whiteman walked "a month since," was the last time the moon was full, as it is at the time of the poem. Since it is a "transparent shadowy night" the moon was full, or close enough to full to cast shadows.

  • 1
    By orb he means Venus, not moon. I am sure about it and all interpreters talked about it. Commented Jan 6, 2020 at 2:58
  • @Connoisseur Thank you. I did wonder if I was right to assume he meant the moon. I think the words 'how full you were' misled me. Have you a link to such an interpretation? Commented Jan 8, 2020 at 6:12

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