The Magic Spindle

By Fiona

[This clever work demonstrates nicely the use of iambic pentameter. It was written in response to an assignment to write a transformation tale along the lines of those by Ovid but using an American animal. The meter was just an extra twist she threw in.]

I do hereby invoke the muses nine,
That I may have the power to recount
The way one thief incurred Athena’s wrath,
And into what thereafter was transformed.
Fair ladies, lend thy voices to my work.
Now I’ll relate just how it all transpired.
It pleased Athena, long ago, to grace
A certain earthly glade, and in it sit,
Her hands about a spindle she had blessed
To have the most astounding properties.
She could but touch it and it twirled and spun
A thread as pure as gold and strong as steel,
Which then would weave and sew itself to form
Whatever she who spun it might intend.
And so she would beguile a happy hour,
A thousand wonders streaming from her hands,
The likes of which no mortal had yet seen.
But that could not remain. On one such day,
Therefore, it came to pass that one young man,
Returning from a solitary hunt
Bare-handed and ashamed to face his wife,
Came stumbling on Athena’s workshop glade.
Absorbed so in her spinning, she looked not,
But left the youth to gaze on her in awe,
And watch the magic spindle to its work.
Observing how the garments would emerge,
He happened on the ill-fated idea,
That spindle, with its properties divine,
Would serve his wife far better as a gift
Than all the deer and rabbits in the wood.
Consumed by images in his mind’s eye
Of carrying the wondrous spindle home,
His wife’s delight at months of work complete
Within so few and effortless short hours,
The envy that their wardrobe would inspire,
The youth remained ‘til dusk was all but done,
And soon as it appeared he took his chance.
The sycamore Athena lent against
Caught suddenly an arrow in its bark,
On which a duck was skewered, caught mid-flight,
Propelled forth by the bowstring of a maid
Of Artemis’s hunting band, who then
Appeared before the clearing, bow in hand.
Annoyed, but nodding back, Athena plucked
The bolt and catch that hung above her head,
Set down her work, and brought them to the maid.
Accepting her small thanks, Athena turned
And went back to the sycamore to find
The spindle gone, though all its works remained.
Enraged, Athena followed where she heard
Or thought she heard the tread of mortal feet.
The youth was fast, but not divinely so,
And soon his shoulder felt Athena’s hand.
A new idea occurred, and he invoked
The power of the spindle, and it spun.
From in his mortal hands, the thread was coarse
And dark but still it spun and grew and wove
And twisted to a mask, the which he donned.
He turned to face Athena and declared,
“Though he’s before you, you will never know
Who robbed you. You will never know his features,
Never know the name you would disgrace.”
Athena grabbed the mask, but as it was
Bewitched with her own magic, she could not
Remove or tear it to reveal his face.
His mortal hands, however, could not quite
Restrain the spindle, which still whirled and spun,
And when he tried to run, he tripped and fell
On yards of coarse, black thread, which wound about
His body as he rolled, and there it stuck.
Athena took her spindle from the mess.
She dealt the youth one blow with it, and said,
“Though not a soul will see your face again,
Still all mankind will know you as a thief.
Those threads will pinch and cling forevermore,
So all your heart will loath the light of day
And oceans will not purge your marks of guilt.”
The while she spoke, the trapped youth writhed, and shrank,
And keeled, producing hair where none was meant to be.
He slinked and scampered from Athena’s sight,
And came upon a still, dark, looking-pool.
When met with his reflection he began
To scrub compulsively at what remained
There, where his hands had been, to no avail.
No shadow of their former shape returned.
No name would then for years his eardrums sting,
No more light meet his eyes but from the moon,
‘til humans, wanting names for everything,
Took pity and bestowed the name raccoon.

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