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"A Noiseless Patient Spider"

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on 11 November 2013

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Transcript of "A Noiseless Patient Spider"

What is happening during this time period?
Whitman was a part of the transition between transcendentalism and realism and incorporated both views in his works
He published the first edition of "Leaves of Grass" in 1855
The Civil War occurred from 1861-1865
The war affected his poetry because his brother, George, was part of the Union Army and sent him detailed letters
His views, such as the abolition of slavery, were present in some his poems
The United States rose as a commercial and political power during this time period
"Leaves of Grass" did not become popular until after death
Breakdown of the Poem
Setting - Focuses on a spider on a promontory being observed by the speaker
Theme(s) - Loneliness
Persona - Written in 1st person as the speaker observes a spider
Rhyme Scheme - Written in free verse with no apparent rhyme scheme

Stanza 1 A spider is alone on a promontory, or a body of land jutting out
over a body of water, and is tirelessly casting out web-threads
continuously in attempt to define the emptiness it is bound to.


Stanza 2 The experience of the spider becomes a metaphor representing
the speaker's attempt to find mortality. The speaker is
detached from life and what follows and the soul is ceaselessly
trying to find a way to connect them. The poem ends with no
resolution making the the words "O my soul" sound like a cry.
"A Noiseless Patient Spider"
By: Walt Whitman

Walt Whitman
Born on May 31, 1819 in Long Island, NY
Was the 2nd of 9 children in a family that was not well off
Received little formal education and worked as a printer, school teacher, reporter, and editor
Whitman published "Leaves of Grass" himself in 1855 and continued expanding and revising it until his death in 1892
Known as "the father of free verse" and was an influential American poet
He abandoned the regular meter and rhyme patterns and was influenced by biblical poetry
The Poem
A noiseless patient spider,
I marked where on a little promontory it stood isolated,
Marked 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 formed, till the ductile anchor hold,
Till the gossamer thread you fling catch somewhere, O my soul.
Dissecting the Poem
Walt Whitman established a theme of loneliness in this poem. The spider is alone in this situation and is ceaselessly trying to build a connection to something (apparent from the constant effort to thread it's web). The spider's attempts to connect with something is a metaphor for the soul. The narrator is lonely and is casting out his "thread" (soul) in attempt to connect with something.
Full transcript