A Noiseless Patient Spider by Walt Whitman
promontory – part of land that projects out, as into water
ductile – in this case, capable of being drawn out into threads
gossamer – delicate; gauzy
Questions and Answers
1. Why do you think Whitman uses the repetition of “filament, filament, filament” in the fourth line, rather than simply using the plural “filaments”?
Answers may vary. Example: The repetition mirrors the action of the spider, enabling the reader to envision the spider’s lively work.
2. In what way is the speaker’s soul similar to the spider?
The speaker’s soul also throws out “filaments” in its search for meaning, answers, and a sense of home in the world.
3. Record an instance of apostrophe in the poem.
Apostrophe occurs when the speaker addresses his soul, which cannot speak back: “And you O my soul…”
4. How does the speaker seem to feel about his soul? What emotion is there?
Answers may vary. Example: The speaker seems to feel that his soul is both delicate and marvelous; he almost seems to encourage it in its challenging business. Emotions may include hope and tenderness.
5. What analogy does he make using the spider that is the subject of his title?
Whitman watches a spider cast out threads of filament as it explores the space in front if it, drawing an analogy to his soul, and how it continues to explore the world around it, with its thoughts and feelings each similar to the spider’s filaments. Just as the spider hopes its filament will catch on to something that will hold its weight, Whitman’s soul hopes some of its feelings and ideas will become solid, permanent, and lasting.