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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Number 272: Walt Whitman "A Noiseless Patient Spider"

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, 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

Hap Notes: In this poem Whitman is likening the searching human spirit to the efforts of a spider seeking a place to attach its filament in order to make a connection. The connection will allow it to make other connections and fill in its web and world. But in the poem, the spider is sending out its silken threads, alone, surrounded by a vast (by spider proportions) emptiness. The spider keeps going, keeps sending out the threads, keeps looking and hoping for a connection. (Just a side note: did you know that spiders use hydraulic pressure to move? It's amazing.)

Whitman tells us this is like his own soul, endlessly searching for that connection, looking for an attachment. Is it love? Meaning? Satisfaction? Belief? A purpose? Creative inspiration? All of the above? Yes.

Whitman points out that this is a solitary task but one that cannot be given up. Just as the spider must succeed in order to insure its survival, so must the poet also make a constant effort to try to explore the mysteries, horrors and beauties of life to truly live.

All of us are alone searching for meaning in a vast ocean of space, other creatures, other stars and planets. It is both humbling and important to keep going in the search to quench the thirsting spirit.

Whitman, in this poem, like the spider, does not ever give up hope and, in fact, neither of them can conceive of such a thing.

The poem is is a lesson about the persistence of the longings of the heart, the yearnings of the soul, the need for connection and the constant effort to find it without malice or defeat. It simply must be done.

Here is where we have talked about Whitman before:

1 comment:

  1. This is beautiful..and inspiring! do not take this post down.. others must read this!! thank you for posting!!!!