the thread you fling...

from my anthology of must read (a)merican poems

Walt Whitman

“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.


I have no doubts about the hard, emotional depth of the universe. Also, I've never doubted my own connection - by invisible threads - to reality's fringe. Whitman, in this poem, writes against the grain of the bulk of his work, invoking an intimate setting and purpose. The expected direction of a Whitman poem is for the individual to focus on the relevance or the attachment to the group – America as an entity – all the while expressing a personal view in the search for an emerging new order. “A noiseless patient spider” – in contrast – turns the reader inward, looking forward to Stevens, Frost, Bishop.

His language is appealing, especially in the second stanza, to my literary and emotional self: surrounded, detached, measureless, oceans, musing, venturing, throwing, seeking. The purpose is the connection … the bridge. The final two lines also illustrate in compact and direct fashion the delicate but hopeful purpose to this thing we name as human.


According to Alan Watts, when I die, the universe dies with me.


LKD said...

When my father died, it felt like a universe died.

When my mother poured his ashes into the ocean, it felt like he became a part of the universe again.

A bigger, different universe, actually.

It's weird. I mean, cremation reduces the body to its smallest possible increments and yet, via the smoke that flies up and out the chimney, and the ashes that are dispersed, given to wind or earth or ocean, the body becomes bigger somehow. Or the soul.

I don't know if that makes any sense.

All I do know is that I'm glad I read this post.

And I'm glad that my father isn't in the ground. I like knowing that all I have to do is look out at the ocean and he's there. He's out there. He isn't in one place. He's everywhere.

And everything.

Collin said...

I love Whitman so much. A few months ago I picked up "Laws of Creation," Whitman poems selected by Michael Cunningham. These are the poems that inspired him to write his novel "Specimen Days," which I highly recommend. It's a great collection and good insight by Cunningham.

Sam of the ten thousand things said...

I can certainly understand the connection for you Laurel. And that makes perfect sense.

Collin, I'm not familiar with Cunningham's Whitman selections. I will check into that.

I probably should add this poem to the anthology because I've always been drawn to the lines.

beLLe said...

~definately one for the anthology~~

~just stopping by~


Sam of the ten thousand things said...

Thanks for the read beLLe.

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