Featured Poem: A Noiseless Patient Spider by Walt Whitman

This week’s Featured Poem comes from Walt Whitman, a 19th century poet, essayist and journalist whose work I’ve come across quite regularly in recent weeks. The chosen poem, A Noiseless Patient Spider, struck me with its ability to evoke clear images in my mind through very subtle, limited use of language.
I particularly like:

‘to explore the vacant, vast surrounding,
It launch’d forth filament, filament, filament, out of itself;
Ever unreeling them—ever tirelessly speeding them.’

This moment in the poem brings to my mind isolated spiders that often appear on the ceiling – which is a ‘vacant, vast surrounding’. Very often, the way the small black body of a spider contrasts with a pale ceiling makes the large blank space of the ceiling stand out. The following words ‘ot launch’d forth filament, filament, filament, out of itself; ever unreeling them – ever tirelessly speeding them’ manage to create an image of the spider beginning to build a web in this ‘vacant’ space, by trying to forge connections and attachments.

I particularly like this idea of creating new connections that runs through the poem, as it is of course, something we can all relate to, spider or human!

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 launch’d forth filament, filament, filament, out of itself;
Ever unreeling them—ever tirelessly speeding them.

And you, O my Soul, where you stand,
Surrounded, surrounded, 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.

by Walt Whitman

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