A Study of Walt Whitman’s Poem, a Noiseless Patient Spider
Walt Whitman was born in Long Island in 1819 and raised in Brooklyn, New York. Whitman did not have a formal education, but he read widely. When he was twenty-seven, he became the editor of the Brooklyn Eagle, but he was fired because of his opposition to slavery. He traveled to New Orleans for a new job, but soon returned to New York City and quit journalism in 1850 to focus on writing poetry. Whitman’s work broke every poetic tradition of rhyme and meter. He incorporates different poetic devices throughout this poem to display the courage of the spider venturing forth alone into unknown territory.
The poem A Noiseless Patient Spider, written by Walt Whitman, describes a spider creating its web. It launches out filament, and tries to get it to stick to something. This poem takes place on a promontory. The tone of this poem is dark and very lonely. The mood is helpless, desperate, and also lonely. The theme depicts the difficulty of life and how hopeless it can seem. The poet reminds the reader about how the soul is disconnected from other things. The feeling of isolation is also a big emotional component of the poem.
There are many different poetic devices throughout the poem. Lines nine and ten both start with the word “Till”, which is anaphora. There is repetition in line four, “filament, filament, filament,” lines six and ten, “O my soul”, and in lines two and three “mark’d”. Alliteration, the repetition of consonant sounds at the beginning of words, is used in line three with the words “vacant” and “vast”, line four with the words “forth” and “filament”, and also in line eight with the words “seeking” and “spheres”. Whitman’s choice of wording, diction, such as “it launched forth” (line 4) could support the idea that there is a connection between the spider and the speaker and it could represent the speakers attempts to make connections in the universe. There is assonance used in all of line five with the repeated “e” sounds “ever unreeling them, ever timelessly speeding them.” Line eight consists of consonance with the repeating “ing” in the words musing, venturing, throwing, and seeking. Apostrophe is used in line six, Whitman is giving human qualities to the soul when he says “you O my soul where you stand,”. In line one, Whitman gives the spider human qualities, describing it as patient. Also, in line eight, the way the soul muses, ventures, and throws all by itself suggests that this a personification of the soul. There is sensory image of sight in line four, “it launched forth filament,”. This poem is an extended metaphor. In the last five lines of the poem, the speaker makes it clearer that the spider is a metaphor for a soul.
A Noiseless Patient Spider is a lyrical poem. It expresses emotional feelings such as loneliness. This poem is written in free verse. It has no rhyme scheme or metrical pattern. It does not have a consistent end rhyme. This poem follows the rhythm of natural speech. Free verse creates a sense of the spider (and the soul) being lost, and having no specific direction.
Whitman tries to find ways to accommodate his soul within the world, hence the venturing, seeking, and connecting. He is unaware of how to do so, hence his reference to isolation and the measureless oceans of space. Whitman uses many different poetic devices to encourage having bravery to go out alone into the world despite being alone. A Noiseless Patient Spider is a good example of what makes Whitman a good poet because of the way he moves from the close observation of the spider to the view of the whole universe.
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