Arachne (Complete)

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It is no harm in you to long for praise of mortals, when your nimble hands are spinning the soft wool,--but you should not deny Minerva's [Athena's] art--and you should pray that she may pardon you, for she will grant you pardon if you ask.

Looked at the goddess, as she dropped her thread. Get you gone,--advise your goddess to come here herself, and not avoid the contest!

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All the other Nymphae Nymphs and matrons of Mygdonia worshiped her; but not Arachne, who defiant stood;--although at first she flushed up--then went pale--then blushed again, reluctant. She even rushed upon her own destruction, for she would not give from her desire to gain the victory.

Nor did the daughter of almighty Jove [Zeus] decline : disdaining to delay with words, she hesitated not. And both, at once, selected their positions, stretched their webs with finest warp, and separated warp with sley.

Arachne (Completed) /Limited Edition

The woof was next inserted in the web by means of the sharp shuttles, which their nimble fingers pushed along, so drawn within the warp, and so the teeth notched in the moving sley might strike them. Myriad tints appeared besides the Tyrian purple--royal dye, extracted in brass vessels.

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There Neptunus [Poseidon], guardian of the sea, was shown contending with Minerva [Athena]. As he struck the Rock with his long trident, a wild horse sprang forth which he bequeathed to man. He claimed his right to name the city for that gift. And then she wove a portrait of herself, bearing a shield, and in her hand a lance, sharp-pointed, and a helmet on her head--her breast well-guarded by her Aegis: there she struck her spear into the fertile earth, from which a branch of olive seemed to sprout, pale with new clustered fruits.

And, so Arachne, rival of her fame, might learn the folly of her mad attempt, from the great deeds of ancient histories, and what award presumption must expect, Minerva wove four corners with life scenes of contest, brightly colored, but of size diminutive. In one of these was shown the snow-clad mountains, Rhodope, and Haemus, which for punishment were changed from human beings to those rigid forms, when they aspired to rival the high gods. And in another corner she described that Pygmy, whom the angry Juno [Hera] changed from queen-ship to a crane; because she thought herself an equal of the living Gods, she was commanded to wage cruel wars upon her former subjects.

In the third, she wove the story of Antigone, who dared compare herself to Juno [Hera], queen of Jupiter [Zeus], and showed her as she was transformed into a silly chattering stork, that praised her beauty, with her ugly beak. And so, the third part finished, there was left one corner, where Pallas deftly worked the story of the father, Cinyras;--as he was weeping on the temple steps, which once had been his daughter's living limbs.

And she adorned the border with designs of peaceful olive--her devoted tree--which having shown, she made an end of work.

Arachné (1992)

Arachne, of Maeonia, wove, at first the story of Europa, as the bull deceived her, and so perfect was her art, it seemed a real bull in real waves. Europa seemed to look back towards the land which she had left; and call in her alarm to her companions--and as if she feared the touch of dashing waters, to draw up her timid feet, while she was sitting on the bull's back. And she wove Asteria seized by the assaulting eagle; and beneath the swan's white wings showed Leda lying by the stream: and showed Jove [Zeus] dancing as a Satyr, when he sought the beautiful Antiope, to whom was given twins; and how he seemed Amphitryon when he deceived Alcmena; and how he courted lovely Danae luring her as a gleaming shower of gold; and poor Aegina, hidden in his flame, jove as a shepherd with Mnemosyne; and beautiful Proserpina [Persephone], involved by him, apparent as a spotted snake.

And in her web, Arachne wove the scenes of Neptunus [Poseidon]who was shown first as a bull, when he was deep in love with virgin Arne then as Enipeus when the giant twins, Aloidae, were begot; and as the ram that gambolled with Bisaltis; as a horse loved by the fruitful Ceres [Demeter], golden haired, all-bounteous mother of the yellow grain; and as the bird that hovered round snake-haired Medusa, mother of the winged horse [Pegasos]; and as the dolphin, sporting with the Nymph, Melantho. And there she showed Apollo, when disguised in various forms: as when he seemed a rustic; and as when he wore hawk-wings, and then the tawny skin of a great lion; and once more when he deluded Isse, as a shepherd lad.

And there was Bacchus [Dionysos], when he was disguised as a large cluster of fictitious grapes; deluding by that wile the beautiful Erigone;--and Saturnus [Kronos Cronus ], as a steed, begetter of the dual-natured Chiron. So the maid, too, was obliged to submit, and the sacrifice was renderedeasier for her because, just at that moment, a young female slave calledher back to the tent where Chrysilla, Daphne's companion, a matron whobelonged to a distinguished Greek family, needed her services. Bias, rejoicing that he had at last learned, without exposing his ownignorance, the story of the much-discussed Arachne, returned to thehouse, where he remained until Daphne came back from shooting withher companions.

While the latter were talking about the birds they hadkilled, Bias went out of doors; but he was forced to give up his desireto listen to a conversation which was exactly suited to arrest hisattention, for after the first few sentences he perceived behind thethorny acacias in the "garden" his countrywoman Ledscha.

So she was keeping her promise. He recognised her plainly, in spite ofthe veil which covered the back of her head and the lower portion of herface. Her black eyes were visible, and what a sinister light shone inthem as she fixed them sometimes on Daphne, sometimes on Hermon, whostood talking together by the steps! The evening before Bias had caught a glimpse of this passionatecreature's agitated soul.

Arachne. Complete

If anything happened here that incensed orwounded her she would be capable of committing some unprecedented actbefore the very master's honoured guest. To prevent this was a duty to the master whom he loved, and against whomhe had only warned Ledscha because he was reluctant to see a free maidenof his own race placed on a level with the venal Alexandrian models,but still more because any serious love affair between Hermon and theBiamite might bring disastrous consequences upon both, and thereforealso on himself.

He knew that the free men of his little nation wouldnot suffer an insult offered by a Greek to a virgin daughter of theirlineage to pass unavenged. True, in his bondage he had by no means remained free from all the badqualities of slaves, but he was faithfully devoted to his master, whohad imposed upon him a great debt of gratitude; for though, during thetrying period of variance with his rich and generous uncle, Hermon hadoften been offered so large a sum for him that it would have relievedthe artist from want, he could not be induced to yield his "wise andfaithful Bias" to another.

The slave had sworn to himself that he wouldnever forget this, and he kept his oath. Freedmen and slaves were moving to and fro in the large open squarebefore him, amid the barking of the dogs and the shouts of the male andfemale venders of fruit, vegetables, and fish, who hoped to dispose oftheir wares in the kitchen tent of the wealthy strangers. The single veiled woman attracted no attention here, but Bias kept hisgaze fixed steadily upon her, and as she curved her little slender handabove her brow to shade her watchful eyes from the dazzling sunlight,and set her beautifully arched foot on a stone near one of the trees inorder to gain a better view, he thought of the story of the weaver whichhe had just heard.

Though the stillness of the hot noontide was interrupted by many sounds,it exerted a bewitching influence over him.

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Ledscha seemed like the embodiment of some great danger, and when shelowered one arm and raised the other to protect herself again from theradiance of the noonday sun, he started; for through the brain of theusually fearless man darted the thought that now the nimble spider-legswere moving to draw him toward her, entwine him, and suck his heart'sblood. The illusion lasted only a few brief moments, but when it vanished andthe girl had regained the figure of an unusually slender, veiled Biamitewoman, he shook his head with a sigh of relief, for never had such avision appeared to him in broad noonday and while awake, and it musthave been sent to warn him and his master against this uncanny maiden.

It positively announced some approaching misfortune which proceeded fromthis beautiful creature. The Biamite now advanced hesitatingly toward Hermon and Daphne, who werestill a considerable distance from her. But Bias had also quitted hispost of observation, and after she had taken a few steps forward, barredher way. With a curt "Come," he took her hand, whispering, "Hermon is joyouslyexpecting your visit. Yet she silently followed him.

At first he led her by the hand, but on the way he saw at the edge ofher upper veil the thick, dark eyebrows which met each other, and herfingers seemed to him so strangely cold and tapering that a shudder ranthrough his frame and he released them. Ledscha scarcely seemed to notice it, and, with bowed head, walkedbeside him through the side entrance to the door of Hermon's studio. It was a disappointment to her to find it locked, but Bias did notheed her angry complaint, and led her into the artist's sitting room,requesting her to wait for his master there.

Then he hurried to the steps, and by a significant sign informed thesculptor that something important required his attention. Hermon understood him, and Bias soon had an opportunity to tell theartist who it was that desired to speak to him and where he had takenLedscha. He also made him aware that he feared some evil from her,and that, in an alarming vision, she had appeared to him as a hideousspider. Hermon laughed softly. The omen is appropriate. We willmake her a woman spider--an Arachne that is worth looking at. But thisstrange beauty is one of the most obstinate of her sex, and if I let hercarry out her bold visit in broad daylight she will get the better ofme completely.

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The blood must first be washed from my hands here. Thewounded sea eagle tore the skin with its claw, and I concealed thescratch from Daphne. A strip of linen to bandage it! Meanwhile, letthe impatient intruder learn that her sign is not enough to open everydoor. While Bias was helping his master he repeated with sincere anxiety hiswarning against the dangerous beauty whose eyebrows, which had growntogether, proved that she was possessed by the demons of the netherworld.

What a subject! A bolder one wasscarcely ever attempted and, like you, I already see before me thecoming spider.