The heart of poetry is in its imagery, which leads the reader to perceive all of the senses the poet was feeling – the sights, sounds, scents, touches. A poet uses imagery to evoke these emotions in the reader to paint a mental picture – to “show” the reader the experience that inspired the poet, not just “tell” the story. In “A Noiseless Patient Spider,”
Walt Whitman’s use of metaphor and powerful imagery emphasizes the speaker’s own search for soulful connectedness to the world. As written in the second stanza at line six “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…” (Whitman 720) brings forth the visual image of a disconnected soul floating and searching through the universe for something to connect with to fill the void in the speaker’s soul. Whitman’s use of emotive imagery and metaphor to evoke the lost and lonely emotions of the speaker allows the reader to identify with his need to fill that void.
The imagery in the first stanza is entirely devoted to the isolation of the spider and its relationship to the world as a metaphor to the speaker’s own feelings of remoteness in his soul:
A noiseless patient spider,
I marked where on a little promontory it stood isolated,
Marked how to explore the vacant vast surrounding,
It launches forth filament, filament, filament, out of itself,
Ever unreeling them, ever tirelessly speeding them (Whitman 720).
The reader can easily visualize the spider, sitting atop a promontory in the water, alone, isolated launching it’s silk out of itself to connect to another rock, landmass, “thing.” The emphasis on the spider alone, remote in the “vacant vast surrounding” (Whitman 720) is analogous to how the speaker is feeling in comparison to his own life – alone, in the universe, trying to reach out. The spider’s filament coming out...