Sketchbook Page 8: Arachne
August 8, 2010 § Leave a comment
The inspiration from this drawing comes from the Tales from Ovid, a classical compendium containing fables of ancient metamorphoses.
Arachne had the impudence to challenge Minerva, goddess of weaving, to a contest.
The goddess appeared in disguise and, after hearing Arachne’s scornful boasting, hung her by the neck from the thread of her own tapestry. Then, at the last moment before death, the goddess turned her into a spider …
Ted Hughes’s visceral translation captures the horror of this moment of transformation beautifully:
Squeezed onto the dangling Arachne
Venom from Hecate’s deadliest leaf.
Under the styptic drop
The poor girl’s head shrank to a poppy seed.
And her hair fell out
Her eyes, her ears, her nostrils diminished beyond being. Her body
Became a tiny ball.
And now she is all belly.
With a dot of a head. She retains
Only her slender skilful fingers
For legs. And so for ever
She hangs from the thread that she spins
Out of her belly.