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Short poem

Mary Howitt (1799-1888)

The Spider and the Fly


              1Will you walk into my parlour?" said the Spider to the Fly,
              2'Tis the prettiest little parlour that ever you did spy;
              3The way into my parlour is up a winding stair,
              4And I've a many curious things to shew when you are there."
              5Oh no, no," said the little Fly, "to ask me is in vain,
              6For who goes up your winding stair can ne'er come down again."

              7"I'm sure you must be weary, dear, with soaring up so high;
              8Will you rest upon my little bed?" said the Spider to the Fly.
              9"There are pretty curtains drawn around; the sheets are fine and thin,
            10And if you like to rest awhile, I'll snugly tuck you in!"
            11Oh no, no," said the little Fly, "for I've often heard it said,
            12They never, never wake again, who sleep upon your bed!"

            13Said the cunning Spider to the Fly, " Dear friend what can I do,
            14To prove the warm affection I 've always felt for you?
            15I have within my pantry, good store of all that's nice;
            16I'm sure you're very welcome -- will you please to take a slice?"
            17"Oh no, no," said the little Fly, "kind Sir, that cannot be,
            18I've heard what's in your pantry, and I do not wish to see!"

            19"Sweet creature!" said the Spider, "you're witty and you're wise,
            20How handsome are your gauzy wings, how brilliant are your eyes!
            21I've a little looking-glass upon my parlour shelf,
            22If you'll step in one moment, dear, you shall behold yourself."
            23"I thank you, gentle sir," she said, "for what you 're pleased to say,
            24And bidding you good morning now, I'll call another day."

            25The Spider turned him round about, and went into his den,
            26For well he knew the silly Fly would soon come back again:
            27So he wove a subtle web, in a little corner sly,
            28And set his table ready, to dine upon the Fly.
            29Then he came out to his door again, and merrily did sing,
            30"Come hither, hither, pretty Fly, with the pearl and silver wing;
            31Your robes are green and purple -- there's a crest upon your head;
            32Your eyes are like the diamond bright, but mine are dull as lead!"

            33Alas, alas! how very soon this silly little Fly,
            34Hearing his wily, flattering words, came slowly flitting by;
            35With buzzing wings she hung aloft, then near and nearer drew,
            36Thinking only of her brilliant eyes, and green and purple hue --
            37Thinking only of her crested head -- poor foolish thing! At last,
            38Up jumped the cunning Spider, and fiercely held her fast.
            39He dragged her up his winding stair, into his dismal den,
            40Within his little parlour -- but she ne'er came out again!

            41And now dear little children, who may this story read,
            42To idle, silly flattering words, I pray you ne'er give heed:
            43Unto an evil counsellor, close heart and ear and eye,
            44And take a lesson from this tale, of the Spider and the Fly.

Online text copyright © 2003, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto.
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries.

Original text: Mary Howitt, Sketches of Natural History (London: Effingham Wilson, 1834): 123-28. Facsimile Edition, introduction by Carolyn Whiteside (New York: Johnson Reprint, 1970). PR 4809 H2S55 1834a Robarts Library.
First publication date: 1829
Publication date note: The New Year's Gift (1829)
RPO poem editor: Ian Lancashire
RP edition: RPO 1999.
Recent editing: 2:2002/3/7

Form: couplets

Other poems by Mary Howitt