Arachnid prism: Morning light refracted through a spider’s silk


From Keats’ Lamia:

…and, for the sage,
Let spear-grass and the spiteful thistle wage
War on his temples. Do not all charms fly
At the mere touch of cold philosophy?
There was an awful rainbow once in heaven:
We know her woof, her texture; she is given
In the dull catalogue of common things.
Philosophy will clip an Angel’s wings,
Conquer all mysteries by rule and line,
Empty the haunted air, and gnomed mine –
Unweave a rainbow, as it erewhile made
The tender-person’d Lamia melt into a shade.

Rest easy, John, the spinnerets of awareness are still weaving rainbows. Consciousness dwells in its gnomed skull-mine. Ontological mystery remains, despite the sages’ best efforts to clip and conquer.

Yet, it is not the sage, but the rainbow-spider herself who is most enamored with rule and line: the geometry that will snare her sustenance from the insect-haunted air. Her silk is woof and texture of protein, stranded and coiled, a fiber of living glass.


Now I am sensible all this is a mere sophistication (however it may neighbor to any truths), to excuse my own indolence – so I will not deceive myself that man should be equal with Jove – but think himself very well off as a sort of scullion-Mercury, or even a humble Bee. It is no matter whether I am right or wrong, either one way or another, if there is sufficient to lift a little time from your shoulders. — Keats letter to Reynolds, 1818


12 thoughts on “Arachnid prism: Morning light refracted through a spider’s silk

  1. Brad Stroup

    What a marvel you have posted! Nothing you have posted has been closer to my own experience. You have made a great gift to others.

  2. April Minkler

    David, that is such an amazing photo! I wanted to respond to your last post too, about the fox and the armadillo.

    Thank you so much for your perspective and for sharing it.

    Much gratitude,


  3. Stephen Truslow

    I’ve been recently up in Canada on a lake near The Thousand Islands. The cabin that we own has been in the family for 85 years. Spiders consider our little cabin as their home and we are the interlopers, since we use the place no more than a month and a half between the four off us. There are orb spiders, dock spiders, spiders that come down from the ceiling on a single thread and many more. In the morning when the light is low, you can see filaments between the pine trees and the juniper bushes. The single web spiders actually catch tiny insects on their threads. Amazing! Baby spiders are crawling all over the place. I assume that the death rate is high but they come back every year. What a world we live in!

  4. Pingback: Light, sound, hummingbird wings | Ramble

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