Walt Whitman's Spider
How patient are you? Try to find a small animal to observe: a spider in a web, a lizard on a tree branch, a frog sitting by the pond, a turtle on a log. Record your observations on what they seem to be doing (stalking prey, resting in the sun, watching another animal). How long do they engage in this activity? What were the results? What was the value of patience for that creature? What is the value of patience for you? Read Walt Whitman’s “A Noiseless Patient Spider” below. How is he using the metaphor of the spider connecting to his soul? How is he using images of space?
Read Walt Whitman’s “A Noiseless Patient Spider” below. How is he using the metaphor of the spider connecting to his soul? How is he using images of space?
“A Noiseless Patient Spider”
A noiseless patient spider,
I mark’d where on a little promontory it stood isolated,
Mark’d how to explore the vacant vast surrounding,
It launched forth filament, filament, filament, out of itself,
Ever unreeling them, ever tirelessly speeding them.
And you, O my soul, where you stand,
Surrounded, detached, in measureless oceans of space,
Ceaselessly musing, venturing, throwing, seeking the spheres to connect them.
Till the bridge you will need be form’d, till the ductile anchor hold,
Till the gossamer thread you fling catch somewhere, O my soul.
—Walt Whitman, 1868
The harsh, discordant mixture of consonant sounds (consonance) is called cacophony. Here, Whitman uses cacophony to evoke a loud, noisy poem to ironically describe the “noiseless” world of the “patient” spider.