Back Walt Whitman

Walt Whitman

Walt Whitman photographed by Matthew Brady, c. 1860–1865. (National Archives and Records Administration; public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

Major works:
Leaves of Grass (1855 edition) • Drum-TapsDemocratic VistasSpecimen DaysLeaves of Grass (1891 edition) • “Song of Myself” • “I Sing the Body Electric” • “Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking” • “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry” • “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d”

“Whitman is a kind of litmus paper, perhaps a seismograph. Reading him, we become aware of an awful, lost innocence, and are not certain whether the innocence was real or in Whitman’s imagination. He gave his whole life to a book, he freed literature to go courses that were until Whitman unsuspected. . . . He is our archetypal poet, our great invention in literature, our lyric voice. I like to think that eventually he will shame us into becoming Americans again.”
—Guy Davenport

Read the poem

A Noiseless Patient Spider

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 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.

Read a passage from A Noiseless Patient Spider by Walt Whitman
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