September 18: Anna Lætitia Barbauld: “The Caterpillar” (1771)

Anna Lætitia Barbauld

“The Caterpillar”


No, helpless thing, I cannot harm thee now;
Depart in peace, thy little life is safe,
For I have scanned thy form with curious eye,
Noted the silver line that streaks thy back,
The azure and the orange that divide
Thy velvet sides; thee, houseless wanderer,
My garment has enfolded, and my arm
Felt the light pressure of thy hairy feet;
Thou hast curled round my finger; from its tip,
Precipitous descent! with stretched out neck,
Bending thy head in airy vacancy,
This way and that, inquiring, thou hast seemed
To ask protection; now, I cannot kill thee.
Yet I have sworn perdition to thy race,
And recent from the slaughter am I come
Of tribes and embryo nations: I have sought
With sharpened eye and persecuting zeal,
Where, folded in their silken webs they lay
Thriving and happy; swept them from the tree
And crushed whole families beneath my foot;
Or, sudden, poured on their devoted heads
The vials of destruction. – This I’ve done
Nor felt the touch of pity: but when thou, –
A single wretch, escaped the general doom,
Making me feel and clearly recognise
Thine individual existence, life,
And fellowship of sense with all that breathes, –
Present’st thyself before me, I relent,
And cannot hurt thy weakness. – So the storm
Of horrid war, o’erwhelming cities, fields,
And peaceful villages, rolls dreadful on:
The victor shouts triumphant; he enjoys
The roar of cannon and the clang of arms,
And urges, by no soft relentings stopped,
The work of death and carnage. Yet should one,
A single sufferer from the field escaped,
Panting and pale, and bleeding at his feet,
Lift his imploring eyes, – the hero weeps;
He is grown human, and capricious Pity,
Which would not stir for thousands, melts for one
With sympathy spontaneous: – ‘Tis not Virtue,
Yet ’tis the weakness of a virtuous mind.



1-2 Now Samuel served the Lord by helping Eli

The priest, who was by that time almost blind.

Back then, God rarely spoke directly to

People, and he did not appear to them

In dreams much, but in one night, Eli was

Asleep in his own room, 3 and Samuel slept

Upon a mat beside the sacred chest

In the Lord’s house. They had not been asleep

For long 4 when God called Samuel’s

   name. “Here I

Am!” Samuel answered. 5 Then he ran to Eli

And told him, “Here I am. What do you want?”

“I didn’t call you,” Eli said. “Go back

To bed.” So Samuel went back, 6 but again

The Lord called Samuel’s name and Samuel rose

And went to Eli. “Here I am,” he said.

“What do you want?” And Eli told him, “Son,

I didn’t call you. Now go back to sleep.”

7 Before this, God had never said a word

To Samuel, therefore Samuel did not know

The voice, 8 but when the Lord called out his name

The third time, Samuel went to Eli once

Samuel and Eli

Again and said, “Here I am. What do you

Want?” Eli realized at last that it was

The Lord who had called Samuel, 9 so he said,

“Go back and lie down, and if someone speaks

To you again, reply, ‘I’m listening, Lord.

What do you want me to do?’” Once again

Samuel went back and lay down. 10 God then stood

               By Samuel and called as he’d done before,

               “Samuel! Samuel!” “I’m listening,” Samuel said.

“What do you want me to do?” 11 The Lord said:

Samuel, I’ll do a thing in Israel

That will shock everyone who hears of it!

12 I’ll punish Eli and his family, as

I promised. 13 He knew that his sons refused

To honor me and let them get away

With it, although I said that I would punish

His family evermore, 14 and I warned Eli

That offerings or sacrifices never

Could make things right! His family has done too

Many disgusting things. 15 Next morning, Samuel

Got up and opened doors to the Lord’s house.

He was afraid to pass to Eli what

The Lord had said. 16 But Eli told him, “Samuel,

My boy, come here!” “Here I am,” Samuel said,

And 17 Eli asked him, “What did God tell you?

Tell all to me. I pray that God will punish

You terribly if you don’t tell me all

He said!” 18 So Samuel told him everything.

Then Eli said, “He is the Lord, and he

Will do what’s right.” 19 As Samuel grew up, God

Helped him and made all Samuel said come true,

20 And from the northern town down to the town

Of Beersheba in the south, all people

Inside the land knew Samuel was God’s prophet.

21 God often showed himself at Shiloh’s way

To Samuel and he told him things to say.