The Goute and Spider. A Fable. Imitated from Mon sr de la Fontaine And Inscribed to Mr Finch After his first Fitt of that Distemper.
MS Folger, 276-7*.
When from th'infernal pit two Furies rose
One foe to Flies, and one to Mans repose,
Seeking aboue to find a place secure
Since Hell the Goute nor Spider cou'd endure.
On a rich Pallace at the first they light
Where pleas'd Arachne dazzl'd with the sight
In a conspiccuous corner of a Room
The hanging Frett work makes her active Loom.
From leaf to leaf with every line does trace,
Admires the strange convenience of the place,
Nor can belieue those Cealings e're were made
To other end than to promote her Trade.
Where prou'd and prosper'd in her finish'd work,
The hungry Fiend does in close Ambush lurk,
Until some silly Insect shall repay
What from her Bowells she has spun that day.
The wiser Gout (for that's a thinking ill)
Observing how the splended chambers fill
With visitors such as abound below
Who from Hypocrates and Gallen grow
To some unwealthy shed resolues to fly
And there obscure and unmolested lye.
But see how eithers project quickly fails:
The Clown his new tormentor with him trayles
Through miry ways, rough Woods and furrow'd Lands,
Never cutts the Shooe nor propp'd in Crutches stands,
With Phoebus rising stays with Cynthia out,
Allows no respitt to the harass'd Gout.
Whilst with extended broom th'unpittying maid
Does the transparent Laberynth invade
Back stroke and fore the battering Engin went
Broke euery Cord and quite unhing'd the Tent.
No truce the tall Virago e're admitts
Contracted and abash'd Arachne' sits.
Then in conuenient Time the work renews
The battering Ram again the work persues.
What's to be done? The Gout and Spider meet,
Exchange, the Cottage this; That takes the feet
Of the rich Abbott who that Pallace kept,
And 'till that time in Velvet Curtains slept.
Now Colwort leaves and Cataplasms (thô vain)
Are hourly order'd by that griping traine,
Who blush not to Prescribe t'exhaust our Gold
For aches which incurable they hold.
Whil'st stroak'd and fixt the pamper'd Gout remains
And in an easy Chair euer the Preist detains.
In a thatched Roof secure the Spider thrives
Both mending by due place their hated liues
From whose succeeding may this moral grow
That each his propper Station learn to know.
For You, my Dear, whom late that pain did seize
Not rich enough to sooth the bad disease
By large expenses to engage his stay
Nor yett so poor to fright the Gout away:
May you but some unfrequent Visits find
To prove you patient, your Ardelia kind,
Who by a tender and officious care
Will ease that Grief or her proportion bear,
Since Heaven does in the Nuptial state admitt
Such cares but new endeaments ot begett,
And to allay the hard fatigues of life
Gave the first Maid a Husband, Him a Wife.
(MS Folger, pp. 276-77, from La Fontaine,
La Goutte et l"Araignée, III:9, pp. 92-93)
1903 Reynolds prints Folger text, 30-1; rpt of 1903 Reynolds: 1979 Rogers AF, 41-3.
La Fontaine, "La Goutte et l"Araignee," III, 9, 92-3; also recalls Spenser's Gnat.
Witty affectionate and personal recreation, a wholly successful poem. while the original text includes a suggestive allusion to what Nancy Miller calls "Arachnologies," Finch's language draws out the line with more detail. Finch's use of Arachne in her poetry has been called attention to more than once; see also her "Description of a Piece of Tapestry:" "Thus Tapistry [sic] of old, the Walls adorn'd."
Heneage's first onset of "the gout" can be dated by a letter written by him on February 8, 1697, to Lord Weymouth where he complains of lameness; in February 1701 he tells William Charlton he cannot engage in "exercises proper" to "a country life." I suggest that this poem represents a later revision of an original effusion; in technique and mood it resembles the imitations from La Fontaine written between 1710 and 1713; it appears late in the Folger with two others written much earlier (to Lady Frances Worseley, 1696, No. 69, above and to Nicholas Rowe, July 1701, No 102 below).
Page Last Updated 7 January 2003