Woohoo!!! It’s that final stretch for a fabulous weekend once again. What better way to celebrate this than a dose of Poetry Friday? The round-up for this mind-soothing meme is hosted by the fabulous and talented Katya Czaja from Write. Sketch. Repeat.
Aside from it being an early preparation for Halloween (I mean, really early), today’s post is also tied-in with our current bimonthly theme, Dusty Bookshelves and Library Loot. Tony DiTerlizzi, best known for his Spiderwick Chronicles (the series I have yet to read), enlightens us with a visual feast as he renders an artistic interpretation of The Spider and the Fly. Based on the 1829 poem by Mary Howitt and winner of the Caldecott Honor award, The Spider and the Fly reminds us about the dangers of giving in to flattery. Philosopher Edmund Burke said, “Flattery corrupts both the receiver and the giver.”
I will not go into details of the story for you will find out soon enough. Like Lane Smith, who described this picture book as “a gleefully sinister fable that spins its tale like a great old silent film,” I enjoyed feasting upon DiTerlizzi’s soft-toned black-and-white (pencil) illustrations, gothic in all proportions. It is definitely a visual treat to both artists and photographers alike. Like the black-and-white medium, this cautionary tale never gets old. A classic, down to the last line. And while children were directly addressed in the book, I think that the story of The Spider and the Fly applies to both children and adults, especially those easily swayed by flattery.
Before I present the poem, allow me to quote Dennis the Menace cartoonist Hank Ketcham:
“Flattery is like chewing gum. Enjoy it, but don’t swallow it.”
The Spider and the Fly
by Tony DiTerlizzi, based on the cautionary tale of Mary Howitt
“Will you walk into my parlour?” said the Spider to the Fly,
“’Tis the prettiest little parlour that ever did you spy;
The way into my parlour is up a winding stair,
And I have many curious things to show you when you are there.”
“Oh no, no,” said the little Fly. “to ask me is in vain,
For who goes up your winding stair can ne’er come down again.”
“I’m sure you must be weary, dear, with soaring up so high;
Will you rest upon my little bed?” said the Spider to the Fly.
“There are pretty curtains drawn around; the sheets are fine and thin,
And if you like to rest awhile, I’ll snugly tuck you in!”
“Oh no, no,” said the little Fly, “for I’ve often heard it said,
They never, never wake again, who sleep upon your bed!”
Said the cunning Spider to the Fly, “Dear friend, what can I do,
To prove the warm affection I’ve always felt for you?
I have within my pantry , good store of all that’s nice;
I’m sure you’re very welcome – will you please to take a slice?”
“Oh no, no,” said the little Fly, “kind sir, that cannot be,
I’ve heard what’s in your pantry, and I do not wish to see!”
“Sweet creature!” said the Spider, “you’re witty and you’re wise,
How handsome are your gauzy wings, how brilliant are your eyes!
I have a little looking-glass upon my parlor shelf,
If you’d step in one moment, dear, you shall behold yourself.”
“I thank you, gentle sir,” she said, “for what you’re pleased to say
And bidding you good morning now, I’ll call another day.”
The Spider turned him round about, and went into his den,
For well he knew the silly Fly would soon come back again:
So he wove a subtle web in a little corner sly,
And set his table ready, to dine upon the Fly.
Then he came out to his door again, and merrily did sing.
“Come hither, hither, pretty Fly, with the pearl and silver wing:
Your robes are green and purple – there’s a crest upon your head;
Your eyes are like the diamond bright, but mine are dull as lead!”
Alas, alas! how very soon this silly little Fly,
Hearing his wily, flattering words, came slowly flitting by;
With buzzing wings she hung aloft, then near and nearer drew,
Thinking only of her brilliant eyes, and green and purple hue –
Thinking only of her crested head – poor, foolish thing! At last,
Up jumped the cunning Spider,
And fiercely held her fast.
He dragged her up his winding stair, into his dismal den,
Within his little parlour – but she ne’er came out again!
And now, dear little children, who may this story read,
To idle, silly, flattering words I pray you ne’er give heed;
Unto an evil counselor, close heart and ear and eye,
And take a lesson from this tale, of the Spider and the Fly.
For your optimal enjoyment, and because I’d like to milk this post some more, here is a short video of Tony DiTerlizzi talking about his award-winning picture book.
Bought my copy of the book at Book Off San Diego.