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 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, queen
of Jupiter, and showed her as she was
transformed into a silly chattering stork,
that praised her beauty, with her ugly beak.—
Despite the powers of Ilion and her sire
Laomedon, her shoulders fledged white wings.
And so, the third part finished, there was left
one corner, where Minerva 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.
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 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, involved
by him, apparent as a spotted snake.
And in her web, Arachne wove the scenes
of Neptune:—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, golden haired,
all-bounteous mother of the yellow grain;
and as the bird that hovered round snake-haired
Medusa, mother of the winged horse;
and as the dolphin, sporting with the Nymph,
Melantho.—All of these were woven true
to life, in proper shades.
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, when he was disguised
as a large cluster of fictitious grapes;
deluding by that wile the beautiful
Erigone;—and Saturn, as a steed,
begetter of the dual-natured Chiron.
And then Arachne, to complete her work,
wove all around the web a patterned edge
of interlacing flowers and ivy leaves.
Minerva could not find a fleck or flaw—
even Envy can not censure perfect art—
enraged because Arachne had such skill
she ripped the web, and ruined all the scenes
that showed those wicked actions of the Gods;
and with her boxwood shuttle in her hand,
struck the unhappy mortal on her head,—
struck sharply thrice, and even once again.
Arachne's spirit, deigning not to brook
such insult, brooded on it, till she tied
a cord around her neck, and hung herself.
Minerva, moved to pity at the sight,
sustained and saved her from that bitter death;
but, angry still, pronounced another doom:
“Although I grant you life, most wicked one,
your fate shall be to dangle on a cord,
and your posterity forever shall
take your example, that your punishment
may last forever!” Even as she spoke,
before withdrawing from her victim's sight,
she sprinkled her with juice—extract of herbs
At once all hair fell off,
her nose and ears remained not, and her head
shrunk rapidly in size, as well as all
her body, leaving her diminutive.—
Her slender fingers gathered to her sides
as long thin legs; and all her other parts
were fast absorbed in her abdomen—whence
she vented a fine thread;—and ever since,
Arachne, as a spider, weaves her web.
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