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But all is chang'd, is lost, is sold--
18.—THE SPIDER AND THE BEE.
SWIFT. [THE_following extract will give some notion of the vein of the famous Dean of St. Patrick's. But no adequate notion can be afforded by extracts.
Gulliver's Travels,' offensive as it is in many respects, may be in the hands of every reader for a shilling or two ;-and there, and perhaps better even in • The Tale of a Tub,' may be fitly learnt the great powers of Swift as a satirist, and his almost unequalled mastery of a clear, vigorous, and idiomatic style. “The Battle of the Books,' from which our extract is taken, was of Swift's earlier performances. It had reference to the great contest which was then going on between the advocates of Ancient Learning and Modern Learning. The bee represents the Ancients—the spider the Moderns. Such contests are as harmless and as absurd as the more recent disputes amongst our French neighbours, about the comparative merits of the Classic and the Romantic schools. Real criticism can find enough to admire in whatever form genius works. The apologue of the Spider and the Bee was not unjustly applied, some dozen years ago, to a coterie of self-applauding writers, “ furnished with a native stock," who, despising accuracy and careful investigation, turned up their noses at those who were labouring to make knowledge the common possession of all.
Jonathan Swift was born in 1667, and died in 1745. An excellent edition of his works, in nineteen volumes, was edited by Sir Walter Scott, There is a cheap edition, in two large octavo volumes, published in 1841.]
Upon the highest corner of a large window there dwelt a certain spider, swollen up to the first magnitude by the destruction of infinite numbers of flies whose spoils lay scattered before the gates of his palace, like human bones before the cave of some giant. The avenues to his castle were guarded with turnpikes and palisadoes, all after the modern way of fortification. After you had passed several courts you came to the centre, wherein you might behold the constable himself
in his own lodgings, which had windows fronting to each avenue, and ports to sally out upon all occasions of prey or defence. In this mansion he had for some time dwelt in peace and plenty, without danger to his person by swallows from above, or to his palace by brooms from below: when it was the pleasure of fortune to conduct thither a wandering bee, to whose curiosity a broken pane in the glass had discovered itself, and in he went; where, expatiating a while, he at last happened to alight upon one of the outward walls of the spider's citadel; which, yielding to the unequal weight, sunk down to the very foundation. Thrice he endeavoured to force his passage, and thrice the centre shook. The spider within, feeling the terrible convulsion, supposed at first that nature was approaching to her final dissolution; or else, that Beelzebub, with all his legions, was come to revenge the death of many thousands of his subjects * whom his enemy had slain and de voured. However, he at length valiantly resolved to issue forth and meet his fate. Meanwhile the bee had acquitted himself of his toils, and, posted securely at some distance, was employed in cleansing his wings, and disengaging them from the rugged remnants of the cobweb. By this time the spider was adventured out, when, beholding the chasms, the ruins and dilapidations of his fortress, he was very near at his wits' end, he stormed and swore like a madman, and swelled till he was ready to burst. At length, casting his eye upon the bee, and wisely gathering causes from events, (for they knew each other by sight,)
a plague split you,” said he," for a giddy puppy, is it you, with a vengeance, that have made this litter here? could you not look before you? do you think I have nothing else to do but to mend and repair after you?”—“Good words, friend;” said the bee (having now pruned himself, and being disposed to be droll): “I'll give you my hand and word to come near your kennel no more, I was never in such a confounded pickle since I was born.”—“Sirrah,” replied the spider, “if it were not for breaking an old custom in our family, never to stir abroad against an enemy, I should come and teach
have patience," said the bee, “or you'll spend your substance, and, for aught I see, you may stand in need of it all, toward the repair of your house."
-“ Rogue, rogue," replied the spider, “yet methinks you should have more respect to a person whom all the world allows to be so much your
* Beelzebub, in the Hebrew, signifies lord of fies.
betters.”—“By my troth,” said the bee, " the comparison will amount to a very good jest; and you will do me a favour to let me know the reasons that all the world is pleased to use in so hopeful a dispute." At this the spider, having swelled himself into the size and posture of a disputant, began his argument in the true spirit of controversy, with resolution to be heartily scurrilous and angry; to urge on his own reasons without the least regard to the answers or objections of his opposite; and fully predetermined in his mind against all conviction.
Not to disparage myself,” said he, “ by the comparison with such a rascal, what art thou but a vagabond without house or home, without stock or inheritance ? born to no possession of your own, but a pair of wings and a drone-pipe. Your livelihood is a universal plunder upon nature ; a freebooter over fields and gardens; and, for the sake of stealing, will rob a nettle as easily as a violet. Whereas I am a domestic animal, furnished with a native stock within myself. This large castle (to show my improvements in the mathematics) is all built with my own hands, and the materials extracted altogether out of my own person.
“I am glad," answered the bee, “to hear you grant at least that I am come honestly by my wings and my voice; for then, it seems, I am obliged to Heaven alone for my flights and my music; and Providence would never have bestowed on me two such gifts, without designing them for the noblest ends. I visit indeed all the flowers and blossoms of the field and garden; but whatever I collect thence enriches myself, without the least injury to their beauty, their smell, or their taste. Now, for you and
your skill in architecture and other mathematics, I have little to say : in that building of yours there might, for aught I know, have been labour and method enough; but, by woeful experience for us both, it is too plain the materials are naught; and I hope you will henceforth take warning, and consider duration and matter, as well as method and art. You boast indeed of being obliged to no other creature, but of drawing and spinning out all from yourself; that is to say, if we may judge of the liquor in the vessel by what issues out, you possess a good plentiful store of dirt and poison in your breast; and, though I would by no means lessen or disparage your genuine stock of either, yet I doubt you are somewhat obliged, for an increase of both, to a little foreign assistance. Your inherent portion of dirt does not fail of acquisitions, by sweepings exhaled from below; and one insect