The Garden Spider


Though fear'd by many, scorn'd by all,
Poor spider on my garden wall,
Accused as ugly, cruel, sly,
And seen with an averted eye;
Thou shalt not lack one friend to claim
Some merit for thy injured name,
If I have strength to right the wrong,
Or in men's memory lives my song.


Men call thee ugly; — did they look
With closer eyes on Nature's book,
They might behold in seeing thee
A creature robed in brilliancy;
They might admire thy speckled back
Begemm'd with purple, gold, and black;
Thy hundred eyes, with diamond rims;
Thy supple and resplendent limbs.


They call thee cruel; but forget,
Although thy skilful trap be set
To capture the unwary prey,
That thou must eat as well as they.
No pamper'd appetites hast thou;
What kindly Nature's laws allow
Thou takest for thy daily food,
And kindly Nature owns it good.


Fie on us! we who hunt and kill,
Voracious, but unsated still;
Who ransack earth, and sea, and air,
And slay all creatures for our fare,
Complain of thee, whose instinct leads,
Unerring, to supply thy needs,
Because thou takest now and then
A fly, thy mutton, to thy den.


And then we call thee sly, forsooth,
As if from earliest dawn of youth
We did not lay our artful snares
For rabbits, woodcocks, larks, and hares,
Or lurk all day by running brooks
To capture fish with cruel hooks,
And with a patient, deep, deceit
Betray them with a counterfeit.


So let the thoughtless sneer or laugh;
I'll raise my voice in thy behalf.
The life thou livest, Nature meant —
It cannot be but innocent;
She gave thee instinct to obey,
Her faultless hand design'd thy prey;
And if thou killest, well we know
'Tis need, not sport, compels the blow.


And while I plead thy simple case
Against the slanderers of thy race,
And think thy skilful web alone
Might for some venial faults atone,
I will not pass unnoticed by
Thy patience in calamity,
Thy courage to endure or wait,
Thy self-reliance strong as Fate.


Should stormy wind or thunder-shower
Assail thy web in evil hour;
Should ruthless hand of lynx-eyed boy,
Or the prim gardener's rake, destroy
The clever mathematic maze
Thou spreadest in our garden ways,
No vain repinings mar thy rest,
No idle sorrows fill thy breast.


Thou mayst perchance deplore thy lot,
Or sigh that fortune loves thee not;
But never dost thou sulk and mope,
Or lie and groan, forgetting hope;
Still with a patience, calm and true,
Thou workest all thy work anew,
As if thou felt that Heaven is just
To every creature of the dust.


And that the Providence whose plan
Gives life to spiders as to man,
Will ne'er accord its aid divine
To those who lazily repine;
But that all strength to those is given
Who help themselves, and trust in Heaven.
Poor insect! to that faith I cling —
I learn thy lesson while I sing.
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