Is the spider a monster in miniature?
by Delmore Schwartz
His web is a cruel stair, to be sure,
Designed artfully, cunningly placed,
A delicate trap, carefully spun
To bind the fly (innocent or unaware)
In a net as strong as a chain or a gun.
There are far more spiders than the man in the street
And the philosopher-king imagines, let alone knows!
There are six hundred kinds of spiders and each one
Differs in kind and in unkindness.
In variety of behavior spiders are unrivalled:
The fat garden spider sits motionless, amidst or at the heart
Of the orb of its web: other kinds run,
Scuttling across the floor, falling into bathtubs,
Trapped in the path of its own wrath, by overconfidence
drowned and undone.
Other kinds - more and more kinds under the stars and
the sun -
Are carnivores: all are relentless, ruthless
Enemies of insects. Their methods of getting food
Are unconventional, numerous, various and sometimes
Some spiders spin webs as beautiful
As Japanese drawings, intricate as clocks, strong as rocks:
Others construct traps which consist only
Of two sticky and tricky threads. Yet this ambush is enough
To bind and chain a crawling ant for long
The famished spider feels the vibration
Which transforms patience into sensation and satiation.
The handsome wolf spider moves suddenly freely and relies
Upon lightning suddenness, stealth and surprise,
Possessing accurate eyes, pouncing upon his victim with the
speed of surmise.
Courtship is dangerous: there are just as many elaborate
and endless techniques and varieties
As characterize the wooing of more analytic, more
introspective beings: Sometimes the male
Arrives with the gift of a freshly caught fly.
Sometimes he ties down the female, when she is frail,
With deft strokes and quick maneuvres and threads of silk:
But courtship and wooing, whatever their form, are
By extreme caution, prudence, and calculation,
For the female spider, lazier and fiercer than the male
May make a meal of him if she does not feel in the same
mood, or if her appetite
Consumes her far more than the revelation of love's
Here among spiders, as in the higher forms of nature,
The male runs a terrifying risk when he goes seeking for
the bounty of beautiful Alma Magna Mater:
Yet clearly and truly he must seek and find his mate and
match like every other living creature!