Dickinson and Whitman: Paired Opposites

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Topics: Poetry
The poetic techniques of Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman can best be described as strikingly similar in themes, tones, and motifs yet curiously independent in language and style. Reading their poetry is like hearing the same speech from two different great orators that have completely different speaking styles. One is markedly eloquent and repetitively descriptive while the others words are punishingly quaint and powerfully rich in essence. This is the situation I confront when I compare and contrast Dickinson’s, “A Spider sewed at Night” with Whitman’s’ “A Noiseless patient Spider.” These two great poets oblige me to compare and contrast two poetically commanding poems with the same themes, tones, and motifs but simply conveyed with strikingly different methodologies. The spider in both the poems is symbolic of mankind. The image of the spider possesses this innate mystic stance throughout both poems; simply knowing the unknown and having faith where there seems to be no hope. The last two lines of “A Noiseless patient Spider” read,
“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.”
These lines show Whitman tapping into his inner Emerson here. He is expressing a strong sense of intuition as the driving force behind the spiders attempt to

“ceaselessly” create a link to somewhere or something. Symbolically this is Whitman’s way of saying that men should try to open doors and expand our horizons. Allowing ourselves to be unbound by the strings and attachments of this world and fling our “gossamer thread” into horizons beyond the physical and gain a universal mystic understanding of the world. Likewise something of this Emersonian theme of mystic intuition prevails in the first two lines of Dickinson’s, “A Spider sewed at Night”, which reads:
“A Spider sewed at Night

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