Thursday, June 20, 2013

Vie et mort dans le jardin

The Spider and the Fly is a poem by Mary Howitt (1799-1888), published in 1829. The first line of the poem, "Will you walk into my parlour?' said the Spider to the Fly," is one of the most quoted lines of poetry, although I would guess that most of us wouldn't know anything about the author or the rest of the poem.

The quoted line sprang quick and sure into my mind when I looked at this recent photo of 'Leda', the multicolored Alba that so vexes my rose-growing abilities.  The second line of the poem, "'Tis the prettiest little parlour that ever you did spy," certainly fits this blushing rose; so delicate and beautiful if caught at the right moment.  This spider set up shop on main street, following classic marketing principles of visibility, attractiveness, and access.  Business, it appears, is good in this neighborhood.

I don't think I knew the spider and the fly were there when the photo was taken.  Still, here they are, caught up in the struggle of life and death within my garden, a still life in my personal version of an NSA spy drone, the camera lens of my Canon capturing the moment.  I wonder, does the spider care that I've captured it in the moment of conquest?  No matter that the gardener thinks he controls the garden, I am reminded again that I am merely another tool in this garden; a tool to provide water and mulch and flowers for the vast symphony of life that ebbs and flows beneath the surface.

Howitt's poem is a cautionary tale to warn the unwary about evil creatures who use flattery and charm to draw us in, and she ends with the words "Unto an evil counselor close heart and ear and eye, And take a lesson from this tale of the spider and the fly."  She was obviously writing as an advocate for the fly, but once written and distributed, words and meanings are subject to interpretation and change by the greater world, much to the chagrin of many an author or politician.  As a gardener, I'm rooting strongest here for the maligned little spider.  This minuscule fly probably wasn't harming my garden, but if it sustains the spider until the first fat, juicy Japanese Beetle comes lumbering by, then it was well worth the sacrifice.  Predator and prey, dancing together through the cycle of life.


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