Advancing in Poetry Advancing in Poetry    

Lesson 31: Night on the Prairies

by Walt Whitman

Performer: Librivox - Ian King

Night on the prairies;

The supper is over--the fire on the ground burns low;

The wearied emigrants sleep, wrapt in their blankets:

I walk by myself--I stand and look at the stars, which I think now I never realized before.

Now I absorb immortality and peace,

I admire death, and test propositions.

How plenteous! How spiritual! How resumé!

The same Old Man and Soul--the same old aspirations, and the same content.

I was thinking the day most splendid, till I saw what the not-day exhibited,

I was thinking this globe enough, till there sprang out so noiseless around me myriads of other globes.

Now, while the great thoughts of space and eternity fill me, I will measure myself by them;

And now, touch'd with the lives of other globes, arrived as far along as those of the earth,

Or waiting to arrive, or pass'd on farther than those of the earth,

I henceforth no more ignore them, than I ignore my own life,

Or the lives of the earth arrived as far as mine, or waiting to arrive.

O I see now that life cannot exhibit all to me--as the day cannot,

I see that I am to wait for what will be exhibited by death.

    Advancing in Poetry Advancing in Poetry    

Lesson 31: Night on the Prairies

by Walt Whitman

Performer: Librivox - Ian King


Study the poem for one week.

Over the week:

  • Read or listen to the poem.
  • Review the synopsis.
  • Read about the poet.
  • Complete the enrichment activities.


Walt Whitman's 'Night on the Prairies,' is one of the poems found in his 'Leaves of Grass' collection. In the poem, the narrator leaves his travelling companions sleeping around the fire to take a walk under the star-filled night sky. There he ponders his day and contemplates life, death, existence, eternity, and the myriad of other worlds that surround him. The narrator realizes that just as the day cannot show all there is to see and know after nightfall, life cannot show all there is to see and know after death.


  1. Walt Whitman was born in 1819 in West Hills, New York.
  2. Zoom in and find Whitman's state of birth, New York (NY), on the map of the United States.
  3. Whitman was one of nine children. His childhood was turbulent as his parents moved frequently due to financial difficulties.
  4. Whitman started working as a law office boy when he was only 11 years old.
  5. Whitman later became a printer's devil (apprentice) at a newspaper. He later taught, founded his own newspaper, served as a nurse during the Civil War, and performed a variety of other jobs.
  6. Whitman began publishing poetry as a teenager and continued through his life, determined to be a poet.
  7. Whitman spent 33 years perfecting his well-known poetry collection, 'Leaves of Grass.'
  8. Whitman died of pleurisy in Camden, New Jersey at the age of 72.
  9. Find Whitman's state of death, New Jersey, on the map of the United States.


Activity 1: Recite Poem Information

Recite the title of the poem and the name of the poet.

Activity 2: Study the Poem Picture

Study the poem picture and describe how it relates to the poem.

Activity 3: Recite the Poem

Practice reciting the poem aloud.

Activity 4: Complete Book Activities   

  • Click the crayon above, and complete pages 197-202 of 'Elementary Poetry 4: Advancing in Poetry.'


  1. 'Walt Whitman.' Wikipedia. n.p.
  2. 'Printer's devil.' Wikipedia. n.p.