Friday, November 23, 2007

Poetry Friday -- A Noiseless Patient Spider

"It launched forth filament, filament, filament..."

First, I scanned my shelf of poetry and decided on Walt Whitman. I chose the Nature Company collection in the cardboard sleeve, illustrated with provocative black and white photos.

"It launched forth filament, filament, filament..."
I quickly found a poem that spoke to me -- A Noiseless Patient Spider. But could I use the whole poem? What would Copyright say?

"It launched forth filament, filament, filament..."
I did pointless Google search after fruitless Google search until I ran across the phrase I needed but couldn't find inside my brain: Public Domain. And my answer: Yes, you can use the whole poem.

"It launched forth filament, filament, filament..."
But then I found LibriVox: "LibriVox volunteers record chapters of books in the public domain and release the audio files back onto the net. Our goal is to make all public domain books available as free audio books." And here are eight different readings of A Noiseless Patient Spider. Eight. As in, how many legs does a spider have?

"It launched forth filament, filament, filament..."
And those eight readings made me think of this email I got from Franki (she's still in NYC):

Did you pick this up at the exhibit hall?
Might be a good poetry Friday post--just an fyi.
It is a pretty cool project and site.
Videoclips of kids reciting these poems.
Much more fun than a spelling bee, I would think.


Poetry Out Loud dot org. Out loud. Like LibriVox.

Enough. Here's the poem:

by Walt Whitman

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
xxxxxconnect 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.

Roundup is at Susan Writes.


  1. Anonymous9:21 AM

    Thank you for reminding me of that lovely, lovely poem. It did my soul good today, as it sends its own filament, filament, filament out - some of which is connected to you and this poem. I hope you don't mind.

  2. Anonymous12:21 PM

    What a great Poetry Friday entry! Reminds me I want to read more Whitman.

  3. Wow that's the best spider poem I've ever read/heard! Thanks for tracking down all these versions. And the audio links! Great! I am going to pass those on to our teachers.

  4. Um (in the agreeing sense of "um")...I remember reading that one in high school, and mentally shelving it in my "really good poems" file. Thanks for reminding me of it.


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