This work is inspired by The Battle of the Books, a work of Jonathan Swift. It especially draws meaning from the fable of the Spider and the Bee. Diverse knowledge is a precious good. No art pour l’art, but art embedded in life.
The Battle of the Books is the name of a short satire written by Jonathan Swift and published as part of the prolegomena to his A Tale of a Tub in 1704. It depicts a literal battle between books in the King’s Library, as ideas and authors struggle for supremacy. Because of the satire, The Battle of the Books has become a term for the Quarrel of the Ancients and the Moderns.
The combat in the Battle is interrupted by the interpolated allegory of the spider and the bee. A spider, “swollen up to the first Magnitude, by the Destruction of infinite Numbers of Flies” resides like a castle holder above a top shelf, and a bee, flying from the natural world and drawn by curiosity, wrecks the spider’s web. The spider curses the bee for clumsiness and for wrecking the work of one who is his better. The spider says that his web is his home, a stately manor, while the bee is a vagrant who goes anywhere in nature without any concern for reputation. The bee answers that he is doing the bidding of nature, aiding in the fields, while the spider’s castle is merely what was drawn from its own body, which has “a good plentiful Store of Dirt and Poison.”
The bee is like the ancients and like authors: it gathers its materials from nature and sings its drone song in the fields. The spider is like the moderns and like critics: it kills the weak and then spins its web (books of criticism) from the taint of its own body digesting the viscera.