« PreviousContinue »
But sav'ry herbs among the thorns were found,
Vervain and poppy flowers his garden crown'd,
And drooping lilies whiten'd all the ground.
Blest with these riches he could empires slight,
And when he rested from his toils at night,
The earth unpurchas'd dainties would afford,
And his own garden furnish out his board :
The Spring did first his op'ning roses blow,
First rip'ning Autumn bent his fruitful bough.
When piercing colds had burst the brittle stone,
And freezing rivers stiffen’d as they run,
He then would prune the tend’rest of his trees,
Chide the late spring, and ling’ring western breeze:
His bees first swarm’d, and made his vessels foam
With the rich squeezing of the juicy comb.
Here lindens and the sappy pine increas'd;
Here, when gay flow'rs his smiling orchard drest,
As many blossoms as the spring should show,
So many dangling apples mellow'd on the bough.
In rows his elms and knotty pear trees bloom,
And thorns ennobled now to bear a plum,
And spreading plane trees, where supinely laid
He now enjoys the cool, and quaffs beneath the shade.
But these, for want of room, I must omit,
And leave for future poets to recite.
Now I'll proceed their natures to declare,
Which Jove himself did on the bees confer;
Because, invited by the timbrel's sound,
Lolg'd in a cave, th' almighty babe they found,
And the young god nurs’d kindiy under ground.
Of all the wing'd inhabitants of air,
These only make their young the public care ;
In well-dispos'd societies they live,
And laws and statutes regulate their hive ;
Nor stray, like others, unconfin'd abroad,
But know set stations, and a fix'd abode :
Each provident of cold in summer flies
Through fields, and woods, to seek for new supplies,
And in the common stock unlades his thighs.
Some watch the food, some in the meadows ply,
Taste ev'ry bud, and suck each blossom dry;
Whilst others, lab’ring in their cells at home,
Temper Narcissus' clammy tears with gum,
For the first ground-work of the golden comb;
On this they found their waxen works, and raise
The yellow fabric on its gluey base;
Some educate the young or hatch the seed
With vital warmth, and future nations breed ;
Whilst others thicken all the slimy dews,
And into purest honey work the juice;
Then fill the hollows of the comb, and swell
With luscious nectar ev'ry flowing cell.
By turns they watch, by turns with curious eyes
Survey the heav'ns, and search the clouded skies
To find out breeding storms, and tell what tempests
By turns they ease the loaden swarms, or drive
The drone, a lazy insect, from their hive.
The work is warmly ply'd through all the cells,
And strong with thyme the new-made honey smells.
So in their caves the brawny Cyclops sweat, When with huge strokes the stubborn wedge they
beat, And all th' unshapen thunder-bolt complete; Alternately their hammers rise and fall, Whilst griping tongs turn round the glowing ball. With puffing bellows some the flames increase, And some in waters dip the hissing mass;
Their beaten anvils dreadfully resound,
And Ætna shakes all o'er, and thunders under ground.
Thus, if great things we may with small compare,
The busy swarms their diff 'rent labours share.
Desire of profit urges all degrees;
The aged insects, by experience wise,
Attend the comb, and fashion ev'ry part,
And shape the waxen fret-work out with art:
The young at night returning from their toils,
Bring home their thighs clogg'd with the meadows'
On lavender and saffron buds they feed,
On bending osiers and the balmy reed;
From purple violets and the teile they bring
Their gather'd sweets, and rifle all the spring.
All work together, all together rest,
The morning still renews their labours past;
Then all rush out, their diff 'rent tasks pursue,
Sit on the bloom, and suck the rip’ning dew;
Again, when evening warns them to their home,
With weary wings and heavy thighs they come,
And crowd about the chink, and mix a drowsy hum.
Into their cells at length they gently creep,
There all the night their peaceful station keep,
Wrapt up in silence, and dissolv'd in sleep.
None range abroad when winds or storms are nigh,
Nor trust their bodies to a faithless sky,
But make small journeys, with a careful wing,
And fly to water at a neighb'ring spring;
And, lest their airy bodies should be cast
In restless whirls, the sport of ev'ry blast,
They carry stones to poise them in their flight,
As ballast keeps th' unsteady vessel right.
But of all customs that the bees can boast, 'Tis this may challenge admiration most;
That none will Hymen's softer joys approve,
Nor waste their spirits in luxurious love,
But all a long virginity maintain,
And bring forth young without a mother's pain :
From herbs and flow’rs they pick each tender bee,
And cull from plants a buzzing progeny ;
From these they choose out subjects, and create
A little monarch of the rising state ;
Then buiid wax kingdoms for the infant prince,
And form a palace for his residence.
But often in their journeys as they fly,
On flints they tear their silken wings, or lie
Grov'ling beneath their flow'ry load, and die.
Thus love of honey can an insect fire,
And in a fly such generous thoughts inspire.
Yet by repeopling their decaying state,
Though seven short springs conclude their vital date,
Their ancient stocks eternally remain,
And in an endless race their children's children reign.
No prostrate vassal of the East can more
With slavish fear his haughty prince adore ;
His life unites them all ; but when he dies,
All in loud tumults and distractions rise ;
They waste their honey, and their combs deface,
And wild confusion reigns in ev'ry place.
Him all admire, all the great guardian own,
Andcrowd about his courts,and buzz about his throne.
Oft on their backs their weary prince they bear,
Oft in his cause embattled in the air,
Pursue a glorious death, in wounds and war.
Some from such instances as these have taught
« The bees' extract is heav'nly; for they thought
The universe alive ; and that a soul,
Diffus'd throughout the matter of the whole,
To all the vast unbounded frame was giv'n,
And ran through earth, and air, and sea, and all the
deep of heav'n ;
That this first kindled life in man and beast,
Life that again flows into this at last.
That no compounded animal could die,
But when dissolv'd, the spirit mounted high,
Dwelt in a star, and settled in the sky."
Whene'er their balmy sweets you mean to seize,
And take the liquid labours of the bees,
Spurt draughts of water from your mouth, and drive
A loathsome cloud of smoke amidst their hive.
Twice in the year their flow'ry toils begin,
And twice they fetch their dewy harvest in;
Once when the lovely Pleiades arise,
And add fresh lustre to the summer skies ;
And once when hast'ning from the wat'ry sign,
They quit their station, and forbear to shine.
The bees are prone to rage, and often found
To perish for revenge, and die upon the wound.
Their venom'd sting produces aching pains,
And swells the flesh, and shoots among the veins.
When first a cold hard winter's storms arrive,
And threaten death or famine to their hive,
If now their sinking state and low affairs
Can move your pity, and provoke your cares,
Fresh burning thyme before their cells convey,
And cut their dry and husky wax away ;
For often lizards seize the luscious spoils,
Or drones that riot on another's toils :
Oft broods of moths infest the hungry swarms,
And oft the furious wasp their hive alarms
With louder hums, and with unequal arms;
Or else the spider at their entrance sets
Her snares, and spins her bowels into nets.