Find this site useful?
~ Adverts ~
Arachnids in Literature
The Story of Anansi
Silkworm and the Spider
Spider and the
Transformation of Arachne in to a Spider
Comedy: The Inferno (Hell)
The Faerie Queen
The Adventures of
The Age of
Fable or The Stories of Gods and Heroes
Garden of Verses
Anansi the Spider was a vain, mischievous creature,
always swindling and hoodwinking others. Anansi was also
rich, for he had tricked many creatures out of their
homes and land. Chameleon wished with all his heart to
take revenge on Anansi, for long ago Anansi had fooled
him into giving up his farm, and Chameleon feared his
family would soon starve. And so Chameleon thought and
thought. At last he knew exactly what to do.
Chameleon crawled to the edge of one of Anansi's huge
field's and there began to dig. He dug and dug, and soon
he had hollowed out a long tunnel. Next he covered the
hole with a roof made of dirt, leaving only the tiniest
Chameleon was a most industrious fellow, and though he
was exhausted from his work, he did not stop there. He
went to work collecting hundreds of thin little green
vines. Now Chameleon and his sons together went to work
collecting hundreds of buzzing flies. After they had
gathered all the flies into pots, they picked them out
and tied them, one by one, to the vines.
"What are we doing, father?" Chameleon's
oldest son asked as they worked.
"You'll soon see," Chameleon answered, and
before long, the young chameleons grinned in wonder, for
from the vines covered with flies, Chameleon began to
weave a glorious cloak. When he was finished, he wrapped
himself in his creation and strode proudly into the
When the people saw Chameleon dressed in his cloak, they
were amazed. The cloak shimmered and buzzed and flickered
in the bright summer sunlight. "Your cloak is
beautiful, Chameleon," they cried. "It's
glorious! Dazzling! Remarkable!"
Before long, word of Chameleon's cloak reached the chief.
"I must have that cloak," the chief declared.
The chief wanted to own everything that was special.
One of the chief's followers ran to Chameleon. "How
much for your cloak?" the man asked, but Chameleon
smiled and shook his head. "Not for sale," he
declared. And he marched proudly home.
When Anansi heard of Chameleon's refusal, he rubbed his
hands together - all of his hands - and scurried to
"I will buy that cloak of yours for the chief,"
Anansi said to Chameleon. "You won't,"
Chameleon said, "because it's not for sale."
"I'll pay you anything your heart desires,"
Anansi said, and Chameleon's children began to wail.
"Father, we're hungry," they cried.
"Please sell the cloak to Anansi.
Then we'll be able to buy food." Chameleon looked at
his sons, and then at Anansi, and then bowed his head.
"All right, Anansi," he said. "You win.
I'll sell you the cloak if you will give me enough food
to fill my storehouse."
"Show me the way," Anansi said happily, and
Chameleon led him to his hole. When Anansi saw the tiny
hole, he laughed. "I'll fill that twice over in
exchange for your cloak," he announced, and so it
The next day Anansi and his children, carrying loads of
grain, arrived at Chameleon's hole. They began to pour
the grain into the hole, but no matter how much they
poured, the hole always looked empty. They poured and
poured, and Chameleon stood and watched. "Remember,
Anansi," he said, "you promised to fill it
Anansi was puzzled, but he kept pouring. He brought more
and more grain to the hole until, at last, his own
storeroom was empty.
Anansi stamped his feet - all of his feet. "I will
fill this hole!" he cried, and so he sold his cows
and bought more grain.
He poured that grain into Chameleon's storehouse, and
still the hole looked empty. At last Chameleon said,
"Well, Anansi, I think you've given me enough grain
now. You haven't kept your word, but I forgive you. You
may have the cloak." Anansi bowed humbly.
Now Chameleon opened the box in which he kept the cloak,
and Anansi reached in. But it had taken so long to fill
the hole with grain that, while the cloak had rested
inside the box, the vines had withered. When Anansi
lifted up the cloak, the wind blew, and the vines
crumbled, and all the flies escaped and flew away.
Anansi held only a pile of ruined vines in his hands -
in all his hands. All the villagers gathered around and
laughed as hard as they had ever laughed, for at last
Anansi the trickster had been tricked.
And ever since that day, Anansi has hidden in corners,
afraid to show his face. All his pride flew away with
Back to Top
A Greek writer and/or collector of
fables about whose life little is known. He is said to
have been born a slave and later released, but many
believe he is a legendary figure. Aesop's Fables are
animal stories with moral lessons, many of which are from
Oriental and ancient sources dated hundreds of years
before his time.
SILKWORM AND SPIDER received an order for twenty yards
of silk from Princess Lioness, the Silkworm sat down at
her loom and worked away with zeal. A Spider soon came
around and asked to hire a web-room near by. The Silkworm
acceded, and the Spider commenced her task and worked so
rapidly that in a short time the web was finished.
"Just look at it," she said, "and see how
grand and delicate it is. You cannot but acknowledge that
I'm a much better worker than you. See how quickly I
perform my labors." "Yes," answered the
Silkworm, "but hush up, for you bother me. Your
labors are designed only as base traps, and are destroyed
whenever they are seen, and brushed away as useless dirt;
while mine are stored away, as ornaments of
Royalty." True art is thoughtful, delights and
Back to Top
Spider and the Flea
Jacob Ludwig Grimm and Wilhelm Carl
Jacob (1785-1863) and Wilhelm
(1786-1859) - German philologists whose collection
"Kinder- und Hausmarchen," known in English as
"Grimm's Fairy Tales," is a timeless literary
masterpiece. The brothers transcribed these tales
directly from folk and fairy stories told to them by
One day the Spider who lives with the Flea scalds
herself. The Flea screams and the Door, the Broom, the
Cart, the Ashes, the Tree, the little Girl, and the
Stream react in turn.AND FLEA SPIDER and a Flea dwelt
together in one house, and brewed their beer in an
egg-shell. One day, when the Spider was stirring it up,
she fell in and scalded herself. Thereupon the Flea began
to scream. And then the Door asked, "Why are you
screaming, Flea?" "Because little Spider has
scalded herself in the beer-tub," replied she.the
Door began to creak as if it were in pain; and a Broom,
which stood in the corner, asked, "What are you
creaking for, Door?" "May I not creak?" it
replied, "The little Spider's scalded herself, And
the Flea weeps." So the Broom began to sweep
industriously, and presently a little Cart came by, and
asked the reason. "May I not sweep?" replied
the Broom, "The little Spider's scalded herself, And
the Flea weeps; The little Door creaks with the
pain." Thereupon the little Cart said, "So will
I run," and began to run very fast past a heap of
Ashes, which cried out, "Why do you run, little
Cart?" "Because," replied the Cart,
"The little Spider's scalded herself, And the Flea
weeps;little Door creaks with the pain, And the Broom
sweeps." "Then," said the Ashes, "I
will burn furiously." Now, next the Ashes there grew
a Tree, which asked, "Little heap, why do you
burn?" "Because," was the reply, "The
little Spider's scalded herself, And the Flea weeps; The
little Door creaks with the pain, And the Broom sweeps;
The little Cart runs on so fast." Thereupon the Tree
cried, "I will shake myself!" and went on
shaking till all its leaves fell off.little girl passing
by with a water-pitcher saw it shaking, and asked,
"Why do you shake yourself, little Tree?"
"Why may I not?" said the Tree, "The
little Spider's scalded herself, And the Flea weeps; The
little Door creaks with the pain, And the Broom sweeps;
The little Cart runs on so fast, And the Ashes
burn." Then the Maiden said, "If so, I will
break my pitcher"; and she threw it down and broke
it.this the Streamlet, from which she drew the water,
asked, "Why do you break your pitcher, my little
Girl?" "Why may I not?" she replied; for
"The little Spider's scalded herself, And the Flea
weeps; The little Door creaks with the pain, And the
Broom sweeps; The little Cart runs on so fast, And the
Ashes burn; The little Tree shakes down its leavesNow it
is my turn!" "Ah, then," said the
Streamlet," now must I begin to flow." And it
flowed and flowed along, in a great stream, which kept
getting bigger and bigger, until at last it swallowed up
the little Girl, the little Tree, the Ashes, the Cart,
the Broom, the Door, the Flea and, last of all, the
Spider, all together.
Back to Top
CHAPTER 29 Tarantulas, THIS is the tarantula's den!
Would'st thou see the tarantula itself? Here hangeth its
web: touch this, so that it may tremble.cometh the
tarantula willingly: Welcome, tarantula! Black on thy
back is thy triangle and symbol; and I know also what is
in thy soul.is in thy soul: wherever thou bitest, there
ariseth black scab; with revenge, thy poison maketh the
soul giddy!do I speak unto you in parable, ye who make
the soul giddy, ye preachers of equality! Tarantulas are
ye unto me, and secretly revengeful ones!I will soon
bring your hiding-places to the light: therefore do I
laugh in your face my laughter of the height.do I tear at
your web, that your rage may lure you out of your den of
lies, and that your revenge may leap forth from behind
your word "justice." Because, for man to be
redeemed from revenge- that is for me the bridge to the
highest hope, and a rainbow after long storms., however,
would the tarantulas have it. "Let it be very
justice for the world to become full of the storms of our
vengeance"- thus do they talk to one
another."Vengeance will we use, and insult, against
all who are not like us"- thus do the
tarantula-hearts pledge themselves."And 'Will to
Equality'- that itself shall henceforth be the name of
virtue; and against all that hath power will we raise an
outcry!" Ye preachers of equality, the tyrant-frenzy
of impotence crieth thus in you for "equality":
your most secret tyrant-longings disguise themselves thus
in virtuewords!conceit and suppressed envy- perhaps your
fathers' conceit and envy:you break they forth as flame
and frenzy of vengeance.the father hath hid cometh out in
the son; and oft have I found in the son the father's
revealed secret.ones they resemble: but it is not the
heart that inspireth them- but vengeance. And when they
become subtle and cold, it is not spirit, but envy, that
maketh them so.jealousy leadeth them also into thinkers'
paths; and this is the sign of their jealousy- they
always go too far: so that their fatigue hath at last to
go to sleep on the snow.all their lamentations soundeth
vengeance, in all their eulogies is maleficence; and
being judge seemeth to them bliss.thus do I counsel you,
my friends: distrust all in whom the impulse to punish is
powerful!are people of bad race and lineage; out of their
countenances peer the hangman and the sleuth-hound.all
those who talk much of their justice! Verily, in their
souls not only honey is lacking.when they call themselves
"the good and just," forget not, that for them
to be Pharisees, nothing is lacking but- power!friends, I
will not be mixed up and confounded with others.are those
who preach my doctrine of life, and are at the same time
preachers of equality, and tarantulas.they speak in
favour of life, though they sit in their den, these
poison-spiders, and withdrawn from life- is because they
would thereby do injury.those would they thereby do
injury who have power at present: for with those the
preaching of death is still most at home.it otherwise,
then would the tarantulas teach otherwise: and they
themselves were formerly the best world-maligners and
heretic-burners.these preachers of equality will I not be
mixed up and confounded. For thus speaketh justice unto
me: "Men are not equal." And neither shall they
become so! What would be my love to the Superman, if I
spake otherwise?a thousand bridges and piers shall they
throng to the future, and always shall there be more war
and inequality among them: thus doth my great love make
me speak!of figures and phantoms shall they be in their
hostilities; and with those figures and phantoms shall
they yet fight with each other the supreme fight!and
evil, and rich and poor, and high and low, and all names
of values:shall they be, and sounding signs, that life
must again and again surpass itself!will it build itself
with columns and stairs- life itself into remote
distances would it gaze, and out towards blissful
beauties- therefore doth it require elevation!because it
requireth elevation, therefore doth it require steps, and
variance of steps and climbers! To rise striveth life,
and in rising to surpass itself.just behold, my friends!
Here where the tarantula's den is, riseth aloft an
ancient temple's ruins- just behold it with enlightened
eyes!, he who here towered aloft his thoughts in stone,
knew as well as the wisest ones about the secret of
life!there is struggle and inequality even in beauty, and
war for power and supremacy: that doth he here teach us
in the plainest parable.divinely do vault and arch here
contrast in the struggle: how with light and shade they
strive against each other, the divinely striving ones.-,
steadfast and beautiful, let us also be enemies, my
friends! Divinely will we strive against one
another!Alas! There hath the tarantula bit me myself,
mine old enemy! Divinely steadfast and beautiful, it hath
bit me on the finger!"Punishment must there be, and
justice"- so thinketh it: "not gratuitously
shall he here sing songs in honour of enmity!" Yea,
it hath revenged itself! And alas! now will it make my
soul also dizzy with revenge!I may not turn dizzy,
however, bind me fast, my friends, to this pillar! Rather
will I be a pillar-saint than a whirl of vengeance!, no
cyclone or whirlwind is Zarathustra: and if he be a
dancer, he is not at all a tarantula-dancer!Thus spake
Back to Top
... was a skilled weaver in Greek mythology. She
boasted that she could weave fabrics more beautiful than
those woven by Athena, the goddess of arts and crafts.
Athena, disguised as an old woman, warned Arachne not to
be so boastful. When Arachne scorned her advice, Athena
revealed herself as a goddess and accepted Arachne's
challenge to a weaving contest.
Athena wove a tapestry that pictured mortals being
punished by the gods for their pride. Arachne's work
showed the shocking misbehavior of gods and goddesses.
When Athena saw that Arachne's work was as beautiful as
her own, the goddess angrily ripped the fabric. As
Arachne attempted to hang herself in terror, Athena took
pity on her and transformed her into a spider. Arachne's
skill survived in the spinning of webs by spiders.
TRANSFORMATION OF ARACHNE INTO A SPIDER
Low was her birth, and small her native town, She from
her art alone obtaind renown.
Idmon, her father, made it his employ, To give the spungy
fleece a purple dye:
Of vulgar strain her mother, lately dead, With her own
rank had been content to wed; Yet she their daughter,
tho her time was spent In a small hamlet, and of
Thro the great towns of Lydia gaind a name,
And filld the neighbring countries with her
Oft, to admire the niceness of her skill, The Nymphs
would quit their fountain, shade, or hill:
Thither, from green Tymolus, they repair, And leave the
vineyards, their peculiar care; Thither, from famd
Pactolus golden stream, Drawn by her art, the
curious Naiads came.
Nor would the work, when finishd, please so much,
As, while she wrought, to view each graceful touch;
Whether the shapeless wool in balls she wound, Or with
quick motion turnd the spindle round, Or with her
pencil drew the neat design, Pallas her mistress shone in
This the proud maid with scornful air denies, And
evn the Goddess at her work defies; Disowns her
heavnly mistress evry hour, Nor asks her aid,
nor deprecates her powr.
Let us, she cries, but to a tryal come, And, if she
conquers, let her fix my doom.
The Goddess then a beldames form put on,
With silver hairs her hoary temples shone; Propd by
a staff, she hobbles in her walk, And tottring thus
begins her old wives talk.
Young maid attend, nor stubbornly despise The admonitions
of the old, and wise; For age, tho scornd, a
ripe experience bears, That golden fruit, unknown to
Still may remotest fame your labours crown, And mortals
your superior genius own; But to the Goddess yield, and
humbly meek A pardon for your bold presumption seek; The
Goddess will forgive. At this the maid, With passion
fird, her gliding shuttle stayd; And, darting
vengeance with an angry look, To Pallas in disguise thus
Thou doating thing, whose idle babling tongue But too
well shews the plague of living long; Hence, and reprove,
with this your sage advice, Your giddy daughter, or your
aukward neice; Know, I despise your counsel, and am still
A woman, ever wedded to my will; And, if your skilful
Goddess better knows,
Let her accept the tryal I propose.
She does, impatient Pallas strait replies, And,
cloathd with heavenly light, sprung from her odd
The Nymphs, and virgins of the plain adore The awful
Goddess, and confess her powr; The maid alone stood
unappalld; yet showd A transient blush, that
for a moment glowd, Then disappeard; as
purple streaks adorn The opening beauties of the rosy
morn; Till Phoebus rising prevalently bright, Allays the
tincture with his silver light.
Yet she persists, and obstinately great, In hopes of
conquest hurries on her fate.
The Goddess now the challenge waves no more, Nor, kindly
good, advises as before.
Strait to their posts appointed both repair, And fix
their threaded looms with equal care:
Around the solid beam the web is tyd, While hollow
canes the parting warp divide; Thro which with
nimble flight the shuttles play, And for the woof prepare
a ready way;
The woof and warp unite, pressd by the toothy slay.
Thus both, their mantles buttond to their breast,
Their skilful fingers ply with willing haste, And work
with pleasure; while they chear the eye With glowing
purple of the Tyrian dye:
Or, justly intermixing shades with light, Their
colourings insensibly unite.
As when a showr transpiercd with sunny rays,
Its mighty arch along the heavn displays; From
whence a thousand diffrent colours rise, Whose fine
transition cheats the clearest eyes; So like the
intermingled shading seems, And only differs in the last
Then threads of gold both artfully dispose, And, as each
part in just proportion rose, Some antique fable in their
Pallas in figures wrought the heavnly Powrs,
And Marss hill among th Athenian towrs.
On lofty thrones twice six celestials sate, Jove in the
midst, and held their warm debate;
The subject weighty, and well-known to fame, From whom
the city shoud receive its name.
Each God by proper features was exprest, Jove with
majestick mein excelld the rest.
His three-forkd mace the dewy sea-God shook, And,
looking sternly, smote the ragged rock; When from the
stone leapt forth a spritely steed, And Neptune claims
the city for the deed.
Herself she blazons, with a glittring spear, And
crested helm that veild her braided hair, With
shield, and scaly breast-plate, implements of war.
Struck with her pointed launce, the teeming Earth
Seemd to produce a new surprizing birth; When, from
the glebe, the pledge of conquest sprung, A tree
pale-green with fairest olives hung.
And then, to let her giddy rival learn What just rewards
such boldness was to earn, Four tryals at each corner had
their part, Designd in miniature, and touchd
Haemus in one, and Rodope of Thrace
Transformd to mountains, filld the foremost
place; Who claimd the titles of the Gods above, And
vainly usd the epithets of Jove.
Another shewd, where the Pigmaean dame, Profaning
Junos venerable name, Turnd to an airy crane,
descends from far, And with her Pigmy subjects wages war.
In a third part, the rage of Heavns great
queen, Displayd on proud Antigone, was seen:
Who with presumptuous boldness dard to vye, For
beauty with the empress of the sky.
Ah! what avails her ancient princely race, Her sire a
king, and Troy her native place:
Now, to a noisy stork transformd, she flies, And
with her whitend pinions cleaves the skies.
And in the last remaining part was drawn Poor Cinyras
that seemd to weep in stone; Clasping the temple
steps, he sadly mournd His lovely daughters, now to
With her own tree the finishd piece is
crownd, And wreaths of peaceful olive all the work
Arachne drew the famd intrigues of Jove,
Changd to a bull to gratify his love; How
thro the briny tide all foaming hoar, Lovely Europa
on his back he bore.
The sea seemd waving, and the trembling maid Shrunk
up her tender feet, as if afraid; And, looking back on
the forsaken strand, To her companions wafts her distant
Next she designd Asterias fabled rape, When
Jove assumd a soaring eagles shape:
And shewd how Leda lay supinely pressd,
Whilst the soft snowy swan sate hovring oer
her breast, How in a satyrs form the God
beguild, When fair Antiope with twins he
Then, like Amphytrion, but a real Jove, In fair
Alcmenas arms he coold his love.
In fluid gold to Danaes heart he came, Aegina felt
him in a lambent flame.
He took Mnemosyne in shepherds make, And for Deois
was a speckled snake.
She made thee, Neptune, like a wanton steer, Pacing the
meads for love of Arne dear; Next like a stream, thy
burning flame to slake, And like a ram, for fair
Then Ceres in a steed your vigour tryd, Nor
coud the mare the yellow Goddess hide.
Next, to a fowl transformd, you won by force The
snake-haird mother of the winged horse; And, in a
dolphins fishy form, subdud Melantho sweet
beneath the oozy flood.
All these the maid with lively features drew, And
opend proper landskips to the view.
There Phoebus, roving like a country swain, Attunes his
jolly pipe along the plain; For lovely Isses sake
in shepherds weeds, Oer pastures green his
bleating flock he feeds, There Bacchus, imagd like
the clustring grape, Melting bedrops Erigones
fair lap; And there old Saturn, stung with youthful heat,
Formd like a stallion, rushes to the feat.Fresh
flowrs, which twists of ivy intertwine, Mingling a
running foliage, close the neat design.
This the bright Goddess passionately movd, With
envy saw, yet inwardly approvd.
The scene of heavnly guilt with haste she tore, Nor
longer the affront with patience bore; A boxen shuttle in
her hand she took, And more than once Arachnes
Th unhappy maid, impatient of the wrong, Down from
a beam her injurd person hung; When Pallas, pitying
her wretched state, At once prevented, and
pronouncd her fate:
Live; but depend, vile wretch, the Goddess cryd,
Doomd in suspence for ever to be tyd; That
all your race, to utmost date of time, May feel the
vengeance, and detest the crime.
Then, going off, she sprinkled her with juice, Which
leaves of baneful aconite produce.
Touchd with the poisnous drug, her flowing
hair Fell to the ground, and left her temples bare; Her
usual features vanishd from their place, Her body
lessend all, but most her face.
Her slender fingers, hanging on each side With many
joynts, the use of legs supplyd:
A spiders bag the rest, from which she gives A
thread, and still by constant weaving lives.
Back to Top
O fond Arachne! thee I also saw, Half spider now, in
anguish, crawling up The unfinishd web thou
weavedst to thy bane.
Back to Top
Nor spread Arachne oer her curious loom.
As ofttimes a light skiff, moord to the shore,
Stands part in water, part upon the land; Or, as where
dwells the greedy German boor, The beaver settles,
watching for his prey; So on the rim, that fenced the
sand with rock, Sat perchd the fiend of evil. In
the void Glancing, his tail upturnd its venomous
fork, With sting like scorpions armd. Then
thus my guide, Now need our way must turn few steps
apart, Far as to that ill beast, who couches there."
Back to Top
And over them Arachne did lifte Her cunning web, and
spred her subtile nett, Enwrapped in fowle smoke and
clouds more black than Jett.
Back to Top
Pretty soon a spider went crawling up my shoulder, and
I flipped it off and it lit in the candle; and before I
could budge it was all shriveled up. I didnt need
anybody to tell me that was an awful bad sign and would
fetch me some bad luck, so I was scared and most shook
the clothes off of me. I got up and turned around in my
tracks three times and crossed my breast every time; and
then I tied up a little lock of my hair with a thread to
keep witches away. But I hadnt no confidence. You
do that when youve lost a horse-shoe that
youve found, instead of nailing it up over the
door, but I hadnt ever heard anybody say.
Back to Top
There was another contest, in which a mortal dared to
come in competition with Minerva. That mortal was
Arachne, a maiden who had attained such skill in the arts
of weaving and embroidery that the nymphs themselves
would leave their groves and fountains to come and gaze
upon her work. It was not only beautiful when it was
done, but beautiful also in the doing. To watch her, as
she took the wool in its rude state and formed it into
rolls, or separated it with her fingers and carded it
till it looked as light and soft as a cloud, or twirled
the spindle with skilful touch, or wove the web, or,
after it was woven, adorned it with her needle, one would
have said that Minerva herself had taught her. But this
she denied, and could not bear to be thought a pupil even
of a goddess. Let Minerva try her skill with
mine, said she; if beaten I will pay the
penalty. Minerva heard this and was displeased. She
assumed the form of an old woman and went and gave
Arachne some friendly advice. I have had much
experience, said she, and I hope you will not
despise my counsel. Challenge your fellow-mortals as you
will, but do not compete with a goddess. On the contrary,
I advise you to ask her forgiveness for what you have
said, and as she is merciful perhaps she will pardon
you. Arachne stopped her spinning and looked at the
old dame with anger in her countenance. Keep your
counsel, said she, for your daughters or
handmaids; for my part I know what I say, and I stand to
it. I am not afraid of the goddess; let her try her
skill, if she dare venture. She comes,
said Minerva; and dropping her disguise stood confessed.
The nymphs bent low in homage, and all the bystanders
paid reverence. Arachne alone was unterrified. She
blushed, indeed; a sudden colour dyed her cheek, and then
she grew pale. But she stood to her resolve, and with a
foolish conceit of her own skill rushed on her fate.
Minerva forbore no longer nor interposed any further
advice. They proceed to the contest.
Each takes her station and attaches the web to the beam.
Then the slender shuttle
is passed in and out among the threads. The reed with its
fine teeth strikes the woof into its place and compacts
the web. Both work with speed; their skilful hands move
rapidly, and the excitement of the contest makes the
Wool of Tyrian dye is contrasted with that of other
colours, shaded off into one another so adroitly that the
joining deceives the eye. Like the bow, whose long arch
tinges the heavens, formed by sunbeams reflected from the
shower, 12 in which, where the colours meet they seem as
one, but a little distance from the point of contact are
Minerva wrought on her web the scene of her contest with
Neptune. Twelve of the heavenly powers are represented,
Jupiter, with august gravity, sitting in the midst.
Neptune, the ruler of the sea, holds his trident, and
appears to have just smitten the earth, from which a
horse has leaped forth. Minerva depicted herself with
helmed head, her AEgis covering her breast. Such was the
central circle; and in the four corners were represented
incidents illustrating the displeasure of the gods at
such presumptuous mortals as had dared to contend with
them. These were meant as warnings to her rival to give
up the contest before it was too late.
Arachne filled her web with subjects designedly chosen to
exhibit the failings and errors of the gods. One scene
represented Leda caressing the swan, under which form
Jupiter had disguised himself; and another, Danae, in the
12 This correct description of the rainbow is literally
translated from Ovid.
tower in which her father had imprisoned her, but where
the god effected his entrance in the form of a golden
shower. Still another depicted Europa deceived by Jupiter
under the disguise of a bull. Encouraged by the tameness
of the animal Europa ventured to mount his back,
whereupon Jupiter advanced into the sea and swam with her
to Crete, You would have thought it was a real bull, so
naturally was it wrought, and so natural the water in
which it swam. She seemed to look with longing eyes back
upon the shore she was leaving, and to call to her
companions for help. She appeared to shudder with terror
at the sight of the heaving waves, and to draw back her
feel, from the water.
Arachne filled her canvas with similar subjects,
wonderfully well done, but strongly marking her
presumption and impiety. Minerva could not forbear to
admire, yet felt indignant at the insult. She struck the
web with her shuttle and rent it in pieces; she then
touched the forehead of Arachne and made her feel her
guilt and shame. She could not endure it and went and
hanged herself. Minerva pitied her as she saw her
suspended by a rope. Live, she said,
guilty woman! and that you may preserve the memory
of this lesson, continue to hang, both you and your
descendants, to all future times. She sprinkled her
with the juices of aconite, and immediately her hair came
off, and her nose and ears likewise. Her form shrank up,
and her head grew smaller yet; her fingers cleaved to her
side and served for legs. All the rest of her is body,
out of which she spins her thread, often hanging
suspended by it, in the same attitude as when Minerva
touched her and transformed her into a spider.
Spenser tells the story of Arachne in his
Muiopotmos, adhering very closely to his
master Ovid, but improving upon him in the conclusion of
the story. The two stanzas which follow tell what was
done after the goddess had depicted her creation of the
Amongst these leaves she made a Butterfly, With
excellent device and wondrous slight, Fluttering among
the olives wantonly, That seemed to live, so like it was
in sight; The velvet nap which on his wings doth lie, The
silken down with which his back is dight, His broad
outstretched horns, his hairy thighs, His glorious
colours, and his glistening eyes." 13
Which when Arachne saw, as overlaid And mastered
with workmanship so rare, She stood astonied long, ne
13 Sir James Mackintosh says of this, Do you think
that even a Chinese could paint the gay colours of a
butterfly with more minute exactness than the following
lines: The velvet nap, etc.?- Life,
Vol. II. 246.
And with fast-fixed eyes on her did stare, And by her
silence, sign of one dismayed, The victory did yield her
as her share:
Yet did she inly fret and felly burn, And all her blood
to poisonous rancour turn."
And so the metamorphosis is caused by Arachnes own
mortification and vexation, and not by any direct act of
The following specimen of old-fashioned gallantry is by
UPON A LADYS EMBROIDERY
Arachne once, as poets tell, A goddess at her art
defied, And soon the daring mortal fell The hapless
victim of her pride.
O, then beware Arachnes fate; Be prudent,
Chloe, and submit, For youll most surely meet her
hate, Who rival both her art and wit."
Back to Top
IX. THE LITTLE LAND
WHEN at home alone I sit And am very tired of it, I have
just to shut my eyes To go sailing through the skiesTo go
sailing far away To the pleasant Land of Play; To the
fairy land afar Where the Little People are; Where the
clover-tops are trees, And the rain-pools are the seas,
And the leaves like little ships Sail about on tiny
And above the daisy tree Through the grasses High
oerhead the Bumble Bee Hums and passes.
In that forest to and fro I can wander, I can go; See the
spider and the fly, And the ants go marching by Carrying
parcels with their feet Down the green and grassy street.
I can in the sorrel sit Where the ladybird alit.
I can climb the jointed grass; And on high See the
greater swallows pass In the sky, And the round sun
rolling by Heeding no such things as I.
Through that forest I can pass Till, as in a
Humming fly and daisy tree And my tiny self I see,
Painted very clear and neat On the rain-pool at my feet.
Should a leaflet come to land Drifting near to where I
stand, Straight Ill board that tiny boat Round the
rain-pool sea to float.
Little thoughtful creatures sit On the grassy coasts of
it; Little things with lovely eyes See me sailing with
Some are clad in armor green(These have sure to battle
been!)Some are pied with every hue, Black and crimson,
gold and blue; Some have wings and swift are gone;But
they all look kindly on.
When my eyes I once again Open, and see all things plain:
High bare walls, great bare floor; Great big knobs on
drawer and door; Great big people perched on chairs,
Stitching tucks and mending tears, Each a hill that I
could climb, And talking nonsense all the timeO dear me,
That I could be A sailor on the rain-pool sea, A climber
in the clover tree, And just come back, a sleepy-head,
Late at night to go to bed.
Back to Top
Tied to the hornets shardy wings; Tossed on the pricks
of nettles stings; Or seven long ages doomed to dwell
With the lazy worm in the walnut shell; Or every night to
writhe and bleed Beneath the tread of the centipede, Or
bound in a cobweb dungeon dim His jailer a spider huge
and grim, Amid the carrion bodies to lie Of the worm and
the bug and the murdered fly.
Back to Top