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Arachnids in Literature

The Story of Anansi
The Silkworm and the Spider
Spider and the Flea
Thus Spake Zarathustra
The Transformation of Arachne in to a Spider
The Divine Comedy: Purgatory
The Divine Comedy: The Inferno (Hell)
The Faerie Queen
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
The Age of Fable or The Stories of Gods and Heroes
A Child's Garden of Verses

The Story of Anansi

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 of openings.

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 village.

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 Chameleon's house.
"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 was agreed.

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
twice over."

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 those flies.

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The Silkworm and Spider (550 BC) -
"True art is thoughtful, delights and endures."

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 endures.

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Spider and the Flea (1812)
Jacob Ludwig Grimm and Wilhelm Carl Grimm

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 common villagers.

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.

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Thus Spake Zarathustra

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 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 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 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 Zarathustra.

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ARACHNE, pronounced uh RAK nee,...

... 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.


Low was her birth, and small her native town, She from her art alone obtain’d 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 mean descent,
Thro’ the great towns of Lydia gain’d a name, And fill’d the neighb’ring countries with her fame.
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 fam’d Pactolus’ golden stream, Drawn by her art, the curious Naiads came.
Nor would the work, when finish’d, please so much, As, while she wrought, to view each graceful touch; Whether the shapeless wool in balls she wound, Or with quick motion turn’d the spindle round, Or with her pencil drew the neat design, Pallas her mistress shone in every line.
This the proud maid with scornful air denies, And ev’n the Goddess at her work defies; Disowns her heav’nly mistress ev’ry hour, Nor asks her aid, nor deprecates her pow’r.
Let us, she cries, but to a tryal come, And, if she conquers, let her fix my doom.
The Goddess then a beldame’s form put on,
With silver hairs her hoary temples shone; Prop’d by a staff, she hobbles in her walk, And tott’ring thus begins her old wives’ talk.
Young maid attend, nor stubbornly despise The admonitions of the old, and wise; For age, tho’ scorn’d, a ripe experience bears, That golden fruit, unknown to blooming years:
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 fir’d, her gliding shuttle stay’d; And, darting vengeance with an angry look, To Pallas in disguise thus fiercely spoke.
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, cloath’d with heavenly light, sprung from her odd disguise.
The Nymphs, and virgins of the plain adore The awful Goddess, and confess her pow’r; The maid alone stood unappall’d; yet show’d A transient blush, that for a moment glow’d, Then disappear’d; 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 ty’d, 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, press’d by the toothy slay.
Thus both, their mantles button’d 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 show’r transpierc’d with sunny rays, Its mighty arch along the heav’n displays; From whence a thousand diff’rent colours rise, Whose fine transition cheats the clearest eyes; So like the intermingled shading seems, And only differs in the last extreams.
Then threads of gold both artfully dispose, And, as each part in just proportion rose, Some antique fable in their work disclose.
Pallas in figures wrought the heav’nly Pow’rs, And Mars’s hill among th’ Athenian tow’rs.
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 shou’d receive its name.
Each God by proper features was exprest, Jove with majestick mein excell’d the rest.
His three-fork’d 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 glitt’ring spear, And crested helm that veil’d her braided hair, With shield, and scaly breast-plate, implements of war.
Struck with her pointed launce, the teeming Earth Seem’d 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, Design’d in miniature, and touch’d with art.
Haemus in one, and Rodope of Thrace
Transform’d to mountains, fill’d the foremost place; Who claim’d the titles of the Gods above, And vainly us’d the epithets of Jove.
Another shew’d, where the Pigmaean dame, Profaning Juno’s venerable name, Turn’d to an airy crane, descends from far, And with her Pigmy subjects wages war.
In a third part, the rage of Heav’n’s great queen, Display’d on proud Antigone, was seen:
Who with presumptuous boldness dar’d 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 transform’d, she flies, And with her whiten’d pinions cleaves the skies.
And in the last remaining part was drawn Poor Cinyras that seem’d to weep in stone; Clasping the temple steps, he sadly mourn’d His lovely daughters, now to marble turn’d.
With her own tree the finish’d piece is crown’d, And wreaths of peaceful olive all the work
Arachne drew the fam’d intrigues of Jove, Chang’d to a bull to gratify his love; How thro’ the briny tide all foaming hoar, Lovely Europa on his back he bore.
The sea seem’d 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 hand.
Next she design’d Asteria’s fabled rape, When Jove assum’d a soaring eagle’s shape:
And shew’d how Leda lay supinely press’d, Whilst the soft snowy swan sate hov’ring o’er her breast, How in a satyr’s form the God beguil’d, When fair Antiope with twins he fill’d.
Then, like Amphytrion, but a real Jove, In fair Alcmena’s arms he cool’d his love.
In fluid gold to Danae’s heart he came, Aegina felt him in a lambent flame.
He took Mnemosyne in shepherd’s 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 Bisaltis’ sake.
Then Ceres in a steed your vigour try’d, Nor cou’d the mare the yellow Goddess hide.
Next, to a fowl transform’d, you won by force The snake-hair’d mother of the winged horse; And, in a dolphin’s fishy form, subdu’d Melantho sweet beneath the oozy flood.
All these the maid with lively features drew, And open’d proper landskips to the view.
There Phoebus, roving like a country swain, Attunes his jolly pipe along the plain; For lovely Isse’s sake in shepherd’s weeds, O’er pastures green his bleating flock he feeds, There Bacchus, imag’d like the clust’ring grape, Melting bedrops Erigone’s fair lap; And there old Saturn, stung with youthful heat, Form’d like a stallion, rushes to the feat.Fresh flow’rs, which twists of ivy intertwine, Mingling a running foliage, close the neat design.
This the bright Goddess passionately mov’d, With envy saw, yet inwardly approv’d.
The scene of heav’nly guilt with haste she tore, Nor longer the affront with patience bore; A boxen shuttle in her hand she took, And more than once Arachne’s forehead struck.
Th’ unhappy maid, impatient of the wrong, Down from a beam her injur’d person hung; When Pallas, pitying her wretched state, At once prevented, and pronounc’d her fate:
Live; but depend, vile wretch, the Goddess cry’d, Doom’d in suspence for ever to be ty’d; 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.
Touch’d with the pois’nous drug, her flowing hair Fell to the ground, and left her temples bare; Her usual features vanish’d from their place, Her body lessen’d all, but most her face.
Her slender fingers, hanging on each side With many joynts, the use of legs supply’d:
A spider’s bag the rest, from which she gives A thread, and still by constant weaving lives.


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Alighieri Dante


O fond Arachne! thee I also saw, Half spider now, in anguish, crawling up The unfinish’d web thou weaved’st to thy bane.

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Alighieri Dante


Nor spread Arachne o’er her curious loom.
As ofttimes a light skiff, moor’d 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 perch’d the fiend of evil. In the void Glancing, his tail upturn’d its venomous fork, With sting like scorpion’s arm’d. Then thus my guide, “Now need our way must turn few steps apart, Far as to that ill beast, who couches there."

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Edmund Spenser

And over them Arachne did lifte Her cunning web, and spred her subtile nett, Enwrapped in fowle smoke and clouds more black than Jett.

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Mark Twain

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 didn’t 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 hadn’t no confidence. You do that when you’ve lost a horse-shoe that you’ve found, instead of nailing it up over the door, but I hadn’t ever heard anybody say.

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Thomas Bulfinch

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 labour light.
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 wholly different.
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 brazen
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 olive tree:
“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 aught gainsaid;
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 Arachne’s own mortification and vexation, and not by any direct act of the goddess.
The following specimen of old-fashioned gallantry is by Garrick:
“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 Arachne’s fate; Be prudent, Chloe, and submit, For you’ll most surely meet her hate, Who rival both her art and wit."

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Robert Louis Stevenson

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 trips;
And above the daisy tree Through the grasses High o’erhead 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 looking-glass,
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 I’ll 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 surprise.
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.

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Edgar Allan Poe

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.

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