A Noiseless Patient Spider
Analysis of the Poem a Noiseless Patient Spider by Walt Whitman
The speaker of the poem titled “A Noiseless Patient Spider” by Walt Whitman is Walt Whitman himself. I came to this conclusion since it is in the first person perspective as evidenced with the usage of the word “I”. We know that his attitudes on race have been described as “unstable and inconsistent.” He did not constantly agree with the abolitionists, but praised human dignity. He is considered one of the greatest American poets. Romanticism was a movement Whitman was involved with.
“A Noiseless Patient Spider” was originally published in October 1868 by the
Broadway Magazine. This is a little bit over three years since the American Civil War ended on April 9, 1865. It would be understandable that the United States is still recovering from such a large scale conflict. I believe this is the event that prompts the reader to speak since it affected so many citizens in the United States. Ideas were being conflicted and many lives were lost during the course of the war.
Walt Whitman is speaking to individuals who have a lot of patience as that is his main focus in his poem. He wants people to slow down and take a look at the world around them. There are most likely many details that they miss or events taking place that they never bother to notice. In this case, Whitman is observing the life of a spider. Impatience will do very little for you besides making you easy to aggravate and have a low tolerance for anything that comes your way. Everyone should strive to be like the spider is basically what he is trying to say.
The purpose of the poem is to express that animals and humans are not so different from one another. They have many characteristics they share with one another, but Whitman emphasizes only one of them in his poem. Both share the trait of persistence which Whitman sees in his own soul and the spider. Persistence is “the act of persisting or persevering; continuing or repeating behavior.”
The subject of the poem is patience. When you are patient, you notice more about the world around you. It is comparable to opening yourself up to a whole new world and we should all strive to become patient people. Whitman describes the intricate process of a spider weaving its threads to form a web. The tone of the poem is admiring. Whitman expresses admiration over the spider over the course of the poem, focused on it like a lens and not letting it out of his sight with his constant observations.
Depiction of Poet’s Sout in a Noiseless Patient Spider
Explication of A Noiseless Patient Spider
The poem, A Noiseless Patient Spider, connects the life of a spider to the soul of the poet. The speaker talks about a spider on a high peak above a body of water trying to create a web. When the spider attempts to create a web in the “vacant vast surrounding,” in line 3, the spider has trouble making a straight web that connects to the otherside. The spider has patience as said in the first line when the speaker repeats the title of the poem in the first line when the speaker writes “A noiseless patient spider,” to show emphasis. The poet compares the struggles of the spider to his life in trying to find out who he is in the world. No matter how many times you try to reach your goal, never give up because eventually you will get there.
Many times the spider launched his web “ever tirelessly speeding them,” hoping to get a good grip and finish his home. This shows the reader that the tone is desperate because the spider will not give up. The speaker connects this with his soul and how he is lost and isolated from the rest of the world. In the beginning, “A noiseless patient spider”, the author uses personification when writing down patient as a trait for the spider.
In stanza two the poem no longer talks about the spider because the speaker has already put enough emphasis into the life of the spider that we will keep the thought of its struggles in our minds read the rest of the poem as it gets into more deeper thoughts about the poet. When the speaker writes that he is “surrounded, detached, in measureless oceans of space,” he is saying that he is alone and he does not know what to do with his life. The speaker tries many times “ceaselessly musing, venturing, throwing, seeking the spheres to connect them,” in an effort to find out who he is in this world and eventually, he will. In the last two sentences of the poem they both start with the word till. This gives the reader a sense of conclusion because by trying many times the spider eventually gets a firm grip as there is a straight line of web for the spider to finish the rest of his home when is says the “ductile anchor hold,” symbolizing that the spider’s web has connected to the other side firmly. The speaker also finally finds something in his life that can help him find out who he really is when reality hits him when the poem concludes with “thread you fling catch somewhere, O, My soul.”
Diversity of Walt Whitman’s Poems
The title of Walt Whitman’s poem, “A Noiseless, Patient Spider”, implies that the poem will be about a spider that is most likely working on its web since this is the most common representation of spiders. The poem does turn out to be about a spider working on its web, more specifically the spider is trying to get the web started. It is shooting its web in many directions trying to get it to stick to something. The second half of the poem is Whitman comparing the spider to his own lonely soul trying to find its way.
This whole poem is an extended metaphor that compares the spider and the soul of Whitman. They are both lonely and searching for the way to go and something to connect with Whitman uses his description of the spider as, “a noiseless, patient spider” (1), as personification of the spider. People are normally described as noiseless and patient, not spiders, making the spider seem more like a person. He does this to add to the effect of the metaphor that he uses in the poem. He also uses alliteration in describing the spider when he says, “vacant, vast surrounding” (3). The purpose of this is to emphasize that the spider is lonely and isolated. Using alliteration again, Whitman then says, “it launch’d forth filament, filament, filament, out of itself” (4). He uses this alliteration to add to the image of the spider repeatedly launching its webs trying to find something to connect to. Next, Whitman uses an apostrophe when he says, “O my Soul” (6). He addresses his soul in order to introduce the other half of his metaphor and to introduce it as a living thing by addressing it directly. He also makes his soul seem living by personifying it when he says, “ceaselessly musing, venturing, throwing” (8). The personification of both the spider and his soul together help connect the two in the metaphor.
The tone of this poem is lonely and helpless as the narrator is searching for something his soul can connect with. The descriptions of the spider and his soul both include words that show this tone like isolated and surrounded. There is a big shift in the poem from line 5 to line 6. The first half of the poem is describing the spider and its struggles to find something to attach its web to. In the second half, Whitman never mentions the spider again but shifts to describing his soul which is the other half of a metaphor comparing the spider and his soul. The title of the poem, “A Noiseless, Patient Spider”, actually means that the poem is about a spider searching for a start to its web and how this connects to the lonely soul of Walt Whitman. The theme of this poem is that Whitman feels that his soul is isolated from the real world. The purpose of the extended metaphor in the poem was to bring to the attention of the reader this theme. The spider and the soul are both isolated and can’t find something to grasp onto.
The title of Walt Whitman’s poem, “When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer”, implies that the poem will be about Whitman’s experience listening to an astronomer talk about space. The poem is actually about being at a lecture from a famous astronomer who is talking about, “the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me” (2). The astronomer is talking about the stars in a mathematical way and it is making the speaker bored so he leaves and goes outside. He sees the stars in the sky and is much more satisfied with actually seeing them then hearing the astronomer talk about numbers.
This poem is an anecdote told by the speaker about him attending a lecture about the astronomy. At the beginning of the poem, Whitman uses anaphora with the repetition of “when” at the start of each line. He uses this to give the effect that the astronomer is rambling on in his lecture. Whitman also lists off many mathematical terms like proofs, figures, diagrams, and dividing to create an image for the reader of math and to associate the astronomer and the lecture with math. He wants to make this connection to contrast with the way he wants you to see the outside world. Once the speaker is outside, it is described as mystical, moist, and perfectly silent in order to create an image of nature and to make outside seem superior to the lecture. Whitman uses juxtaposition for this effect as the position of the descriptions of the lecture and the outside world emphasizes their differences. Another way Whitman emphasizes this comparison is with the alliteration when he says, “in the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time, look’d up in perfect silence at the stars” (7-8). There are three cases of alliteration in these last two lines of the poem, really bringing light to the point that the natural view of the stars is better than hearing about the mathematical view. Finally, Whitman uses a hyperbole when he says that he glided out of the room. This is an exaggeration since he couldn’t have actually glided but he says that he did to show how easy it was for him to leave the lecture since he didn’t want to be there. It was natural and it took no effort to get himself to go outside where he belongs.
The tone of the poem is negative toward the astronomer, positive toward nature, and it is also lonely. The description of the astronomer’s view of space makes it seem inferior to the speaker’s natural view which shows that the tone favors nature. The tone is also lonely which can be seen as the speaker seems to be the only one with these feeling and he says, “I wander’d off by myself” (6). The poem has a shift when the speaker leaves the lecture in line 6. The beginning of the poem describes the speaker listening to the lecture and he is not satisfied with the way the astronomer talks about space. When the speaker goes outside into nature, the mood of the poem becomes much happier and peaceful and the speaker is much more satisfied with looking at the stars themselves. The title of the poem, “When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer”, actually means that the poem is about the speaker’s feelings that the learn’d astronomer has it all wrong and that nature is superior. This is the theme of the poem, that nature is superior to education. Whitman is trying to convey a transcendental message that he feels that people should go outside and look at the stars and experience them instead of calculating things and learning about astronomy.
I have a connection with this poem in particular because I agree with Whitman’s feelings that nature is superior to education. I feel that I get a lot more out of going outside and actually looking at the way nature works instead of learning about it in biology or actually observing things happening instead of calculating what would happen in physics. I feel that sometimes that the things we learn in school are useless like the way Whitman heard the astronomer’s lecture as a bunch of rambling. In a slightly unrelated note, I hated gym class in ninth grade because of the lack of actual physical activity. We spent so much time doing worksheets and watching powerpoints talking about exercising and never actually took the time to exercise. I feel like I could have gotten a lot more value out of going outside and playing sports instead of learning about it in a classroom setting. This is similar to Whitman’s view of learning about nature through mathematics because he would much rather just go and experience nature first hand.
The title of the poem, “Song of Myself”, gives the reader the impression that the poem will be about Walt Whitman himself and will describe what makes him who he is as a person. The poem is really about how Whitman sees himself and the world, what he believes, and his personality. The given section is the first part of the poem. He begins by saying that the poem will be celebrating himself. He then talks about how he loves nature and he is a part of nature. He says that people should not take things from others but should rely on themselves. Finally, he observes himself and says that he is beautiful in every way.
Whitman uses personification of his soul when he says, “I loafe and invite my soul, I lean and loafe at my ease observing a spear of summer grass” (4-5). This is personification since he makes his soul seem like a person that he can invite to come watch grass with him. He does this to create an effect in the poem that his personality has different parts and his soul is one of these. Making these parts seem like people makes it easier for the reader to grasp the point. He also uses a hyperbole when he says, “every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you” (3). Obviously the reader does not actually own every atom of Whitman but he exaggerates in order to connect with the reader, enabling them to understand the poem better. As another method to connect with the reader, Whitman uses rhetorical questions to the reader. For example, he says “Have you reckon’d a thousand acres much? Have you reckon’d the earth much?” (31). He also uses the repetition of “you shall” at the beginnings of lines 35-38 to emphasize that people need to rely on themselves instead of other people in society. This is also an allusion to Ralph Waldo Emerson’s transcendental essay, “Self-Reliance”.
The tone of this poem is optimistic, happy, and self-loving. Whitman shows that he appreciates himself as a beautiful person and loves life. He also loves nature and the way the world works and how he is a part of it. He shifts topics many times in the poem from talking about himself to talking about nature, society, and himself again. The title of the poem really does mean that the poem will be celebrating Whitman and describing who he is. The theme that Whitman is trying to convey in this poem is to be self-reliant and love yourself for who you are. The whole poem is about how Whitman loves himself and he directly states that, “you shall listen to all sides and filter them from your self” (38), meaning that you should decide things for yourself instead of letting other people do it for you.
These three works by Walt Whitman all share similar concepts related to transcendentalism. Traditionally, Transcendentalists believe in four basic premises which are the power of the individual, the universe duplicates the self, nature is symbolic, and self realization as push and pull. These four premises can be seen in the three poems through their themes and literary devices.
In the poem, “A Noiseless, Patient Spider”, transcendentalist principles can be seen in the themes and language. The second, third, and fourth premises of transcendentalism can both be found in this poem. The second premise, the universe duplicates the self, is shown by the extended metaphor that Whitman uses. This metaphor comparing the spider to Whitman’s soul shows a connection between the way the human soul works to the way that nature works in the spider making its web. The third premise, nature is symbolic, can be seen in the personification of the spider. Whitman describes the spider as, “A noiseless, patient spider” (1), giving it human characteristics. This personification shows that Whitman sees the spider as symbolic for the way his soul is lost and trying to grasp onto something as well. The fourth premise, self realization as push and pull, is shown in the theme of the poem that Whitman’s soul is isolated from the real world. This relates to the push and pull felt by transcendentalists to withdraw from society or stay part of society.
The poem, “When I Heard The Learn’d Astronomer”, includes transcendental elements as well. It includes the first and fourth premises of transcendentalism. The first premise, the power of the individual, is shown when the speaker leaves the lecture to be alone. He relies on himself instead of relying on what the astronomer tells him is true. He sees more value in seeing the stars for himself instead of hearing someone else talk about them, showing the power of the individual. The fourth premise, self realization as push and pull, is also shown in this poem and the speaker leaves the lecture. He feels the push portion of this as he feels the need to be by himself in the outdoors and get away from society, which is the lecture. This poem also shows the transcendentalist belief that a connection with nature is superior. This is shown in the theme which is that nature is superior to education. The speaker gets more from experiencing nature than he gets from education. This is also shown as Whitman uses alliteration to describe the outdoors as, “mystical moist night-air” (7). Whitman uses this to emphasize that the speaker sees nature as perfect and magical while he sees the lecture as boring and useless. This is also contributed to by the anaphora of the word “when” at the beginning of the poem. This repetition makes the astronomer’s lecture seem useless and like he is just rambling on and on.
Transcendentalism is also shown in the poem, “Song of Myself”, by Walt Whitman. This poem includes the first and second premises of transcendentalism. The first premise, the power of the individual, is shown as Whitman says, “you shall not look through my eyes either, nor take things from me, you shall listen to all sides and filter them from your self” (37-38). He stresses that the reader needs to rely on their self. This is also an allusion to Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “Self-Reliance”, in which he discussed the need for relying on yourself instead of others. The second premise of transcendentalism, the universe duplicates the self, is shown as Whitman talks about his love and connection with nature. For example, he says, “the atmosphere is not a perfume, it has no taste of the distillation, it is odorless, it is for my mouth forever, I am in love with it” (18-19). This shows his connection with nature, similar to the connection that transcendentalists strive for.
All three poems exhibit characteristics of transcendentalism including the four premises. They all share a similar theme that nature is superior and a relationship with nature is necessary. The connection between nature and humans is shown in “A Noiseless, Patient Spider” as Whitman uses a metaphor to connect the way that a spider makes a web to the way his soul searches for something to grasp onto. In “When I Heard The Learn’d Astronomer”, this connection is shown as the speaker feels the power of experiencing nature first hand instead of listening to the astronomer. Finally, in “Song of Myself” the connection with nature is shown as Whitman describes his love for nature and the relationship he has with nature. He says that he is a part of nature and is in love with nature. These three poems all show the transcendentalist side of Walt Whitman through his language and themes.
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.
Walt Whitman’s Usage of Literary Devices in the Poem, a Noiseless Patient Spider
“A Noiseless Patient Spider” Explication
“A Noiseless Patient Spider” is a poem written by Walt Whitman emphasizing on those seeking meaning and goals by going out in the world to explore. Throughout this poem, alliteration, figurative language, and imagery are used as literary devices to portray the theme. The author conveys that patience and perseverance do not always act as stepping stones to achieve goals and to find oneself.
Whitman uses imagery in the first stanza to focus on the mood. The speaker describes, “A noiseless patient spider, / I mark’d where on a little promontory it stood isolated”. This reveals that the spider is lonely as it stands away from everything else. The image of standing isolated creates a gloomy mood as the spider remains alienated from the rest of the world. These actions display the patience of the spider because despite how unloved and lonely it is, it continuously stays in the same area with no progress towards being accepted. Whitman also states, “launch’d forth filament…Ever wheeling them… tirelessly”. The spider’s actions come together to create a desperate mood as it is constantly attempting to expand its web to go out and explore the world. Nonetheless, its isolation constrains it from truly experiencing life, thus creating a desperate mood. Perseverance is shown through the activities of the spider because it is consistently trying to go past its limits.
Alliteration is used in the first stanza to cause readers to be attentive to the overall image being created. The speaker says, “it stood isolated, / Mark’d how to explore the vacant vast surrounding”. Whitman is using the alliteration of “v” to make readers focus on how isolated the spider is.The emphasis put on the two v’s causes readers to have more compassion and concern for the spider. The spider being solitary creates an empty image in the minds of the readers.This manifests patience because despite being ostracized, the spider still remains in the area waiting for change. Another example of alliteration is, “launch’d forth filament, filament, filament, out of itself,/ Ever unreeling them, ever tirelessly”. The alliteration of “F” gives a hiss-like noise, which is what a web shooting out would most likely sound like. The repetition of “E” shows how frequent the spider has tried to spin a web in its small area even though it does not reach its goals in trying to break free of isolation. This example portrays how much effort the spider always puts in, but never gets the same outcome.
In the second stanza, the author uses figurative language as a tool to give the work a deeper meaning. The speaker states, “and you O my soul where you stand, / Surrounded, detached, in measureless oceans of space”. He introduces his soul in this stanza and begins to compare himself to the spider by using it as a metaphor. They are both standing in an empty area and just like the spider, readers can infer that the speaker not well liked and is lonely, which limits him from finding his identity. Then, the speaker continues by describing, “Till the gossamer thread you fling catch somewhere, O, my/ soul”. This is a metaphor for all the speaker’s efforts that may or may not pay off someday. It ties the entire plot and meaning of the poem together as he shows that despite one’s best efforts, things may not reciprocate.
Although it is not explicitly stated, all the imagery, alliteration, and figurative language truly give readers the opportunity to come to the conclusion that the speaker is the spider. He speaks not only for himself, but for many others around the world as he pours his struggles out in hopes of finding his true identity. As the poem continues, the speaker fails to achieve his goal and identity. However, there are always goals met and unmet; there are always identities found and lost in the world. Perhaps it is the way things are meant to play out, so that greater things can happen.