Sketchbook Page 8: Arachne

August 8, 2010 § Leave a comment

Arachne (from Tales from Ovid)

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:

The goddess

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.

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