Lowell “Mr. Edwards and the Spider”

I have to say, after reading Lowell, I can truly say that I’m not a fan. But I was intrigued by “Mr. Edwards and the Spider” because of the references to Jonathan Edwards, since we read him earlier in the block. Lowell references and paraphrases several of Jonathan Edwards’ works, one of which is from “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”. One question that I wanted to pose was this: What is the significance of this particular work to the rest of the poem? How did you interpret this reference in the context of the 2nd stanza, before reading the rest of the poem? Having read this piece already, does it provide you with a better understanding of the direction the poem is taking?

I was also interested in the construction of the poem and the way that Lowell alternates in speaking about the spider and man. One aspect I found particularly interesting was that the poem opens, speaking about spiders, note that he speaks about spiders in the plural sense in the beginning, but ends the poem with “This is the Black Widow, death.” Is there a point to this circular ending, tying to the beginning of the poem? What is the significance of the “spiders” in the beginning vs. “the Black Widow” at the end?  Does the alternation of speaking of spider then man, throughout the poem, affect the reader’s understanding/perception of the poem? Does it enhance the reading?

Last, in my first reading of the poem, I wasn’t quite sure what direction he was trying to go, but after reading through a few more times, I decided that he seemed to be Lowell is talking about the condemnation of the human race and the lives we live, at the end using Howley as an example. It also seems that he presents the human race as weak and small when he says, “If God who holds you to the pit of hell,/ Much as one holds a spider, will destroy,/ Baffle and dissipate your soul”. Did other people see the poem this way? I’m not even sure if this is a good interpretation of the poem, but this is what I saw.

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