If I want to create art or build an artfully constructed life, one way would be to become a student of spiders. The following poem by Emily Dickinson, depicts a place where, sort of like Alice In Wonderland, the speaker looks up at a spider, seeking to “.. take thee by the Hand —”. There is a hint, too, that education has missed out by not employing the lessons of the spider to teach. It makes me think of spiders as symbols of guidance overlooked. Or, perhaps the poem is more about simply slowing down, meditating, or being mindful of what I am doing at any given moment.

Tiny artistic strokes of a spider constructing its web are showcased in the poem while at the same time providing indirect allusions to lessons of nature that too often go ignored. The poem says that everyone is impressed by the “surpassing Merit”, genius, implied by a fully constructed web. But, that doesn’t keep us from sweeping them aside. The poor, as well as royalty, disregard their broadly recognized certification.

The Spider as an Artist

Has never been employed —

Though his surpassing Merit

Is freely certified


By every Broom and Bridget

Throughout a Christian Land —

Neglected Son of Genius

I take thee by the Hand —

If the poem itself is a web constructed by a genius, like the web of the unselfconscious spider, then the emphasis is on the underlying power of nature. The poem seems to establish the spider as symbol of nature’s genius, something that cannot be produced, but only sought, recognized and studied by people. “Every Broom and Bridget/Throughout a Christian Land —” or, housekeepers, saints and queens who seek to rid the world of what they must admit is beautiful, are missing out. The poem seeks to exalt whoever would take a different tact.  If brooms connote housecleaning and Bridget, which is of Gaelic origin meaning “exalted one or Irish goddess then the spectrum of people who neglect to learn from the best is broad indeed.


Digest A Poem A Day — Accept What Comes Your Way