BY study, by art, and by rule

The wheel of the workman is made; 

But the spider he needs no tool,

And he never learned his trade. 

No human model he takes

Of iron, of wood, or of steel; 

No plane, no measures, he makes;

Yet how perfect his filmy wheel! 

His lines, his circles, his curves,

So regular, yet so involved! 

A method that never swerves,

And a knowledge that none have solved.

Long practiced and early taught,

Until habit and skill combine, 

The lace-maker's work is wrought

After pattern and fair design; 

But the spider copies none,

As in bush and shrub he traces, 

All silver white in the sun,

His wonderful gossamer laces. 

No pillow, no loom needs he

For the delicate web he weaves, 

Spread out on the breezy tree

Like a vail on the trembling leaves. 

A long effort science requires

Ere its cleverest sons are able 

To perfect electric wires,

Or to lay a telegraph cable; 

But the spider wins his goal

With an instinct swift and fine, 

As from garden pole to pole

He stretches his plastic line. 

Can the human artist cope

With the marvelous little elf 

That skillfully spins his rope,

And then walks along it himself?

Man, working by second causes,

Looks only on natural laws: 

'T is well when he sometimes pauses

To remember the Great First Cause. 

The wisdom that man attains,

For which mortals must pore and plod, 

The insect untutored gains;

But alike 'tis the gift of God.

London Prize