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ETHEREAL sweets shall next my Musc engage,
And this, Mæcenas, claims your patronage.
Of little creatures wondrous acts I treat,
The ranks and mighty leaders of their state,
Their laws, employments, and their wars relate:
A trifling theme provokes my humble lays,
Trifling the theme, not so the poet's praise,
If great Apollo and the tuneful Nine
Join in the piece, to make the work divine.
Let purling streams, and fountains edg'd with moss, And shallow rills run trickling through the grass ; Let branching olives o'er the fountain grow, Or palms shoot up, and shade the streams below; That when the youth, led by their princes, shun The crowded hive, and sport it in the sun, Refreshing springs may tempt them from the heat, And shady coverts yield a cool retreat.
Whether the neighbouring water stands or runs, Lay twigs across, and bridge it o'er with stones; That if rough storms, or sudden blasts of wind Should dip, or scatter those that lag behind, Here they may settle on the friendly stone, And dry their reeking pinions at the sun. Plant all the flow'ry banks with lavender, With store of sav'ry scent the fragrant air, Let running betony the field o'erspread, And fountains soak the violet's dewy bed.
Though barks or plaited willows make your hive, A narrow inlet to their cells contrive; For colds congeal and freeze the liquors up, And, melted down with heat, the waxen buildings drop. The bees, of both extremes alike afraid, Their wax around the whistling crannies spread, And suck out clammy dews from herbs and flow'rs, To smear the chinks, and plaister up the
pores ; For this they hoard up glue, whose clinging drops, Like pitch, or bird-lime, hang in stringy ropes. They oft, 'tis said, in dark retirements dwell, And work in subterraneous caves their cell ; At other times th' industrious insects live In hollow rocks, or make a tree their hive.
Point all their chinky lodgings round with mud, And leaves most thinly on your work be strow'd;
But let no baleful yew tree flourish ncar,
Nor rotten marshes send out steams of mire;
Nor burning crabs grow red, and crackle in the fire,
Nor neighb’ring caves return the dying sound,
Nor echoing rocks the doubled voice rebound.
Things thus prepar'd-
When th' under world is seiz'd with cold and night,
And summer here descends in streams of light,
The bees through woods and forests take their flight.
They rifle ev'ry flow'r, and lightly skim
The crystal brook, and sip the running stream;
And thus they feed their young with strange delight,
And knead the yielding wax,and work the slimy sweet.
But when on high you see the bees repair,
Borne on the winds through distant tracts of air,
And view the winged cloud all black’ning from afar ;
While shady coverts, and fresh streams they choose,
Milfoil and common honeysuckles bruise,
And sprinkle on their hives the fragrant juice.
On brazen vessels beat a tinkling sound,
And shake the cymbals of the goddess round;
Then all will hastily retreat, and fill
The warm resounding hollow of their cell.
If once two rival kings their right debate,
And factions and cabals embroil the state,
The people's actions will their thoughts declare ;
All their hearts tremble, and beat thick with war ;
Hoarse broken sounds, like trumpets' harsh alarms,
Run through the hive, and call them to their arms;
All in a hurry spread their shiv'ring wings
And fit their claws, and point their angry stings:
In crowds before the king's pavilion meet,
And boldly challenge out the foe to fight :
At last, when all the heav'ns are warm and fair,
They rush together out, and join ; the air
Swarms thick, and echoes with the humming war.
All in a firm round cluster mix, and strow
With heaps of little corps the earth below;
As thick as hail-stones from the floor rebound,
Or shaken acorns rattle on the ground.
No sense of danger can their kings control,
Their little bodies lodge a mighty soul :
Each obstinate in arms pursues his blow,
Till shameful flight secures the routed foe.
This hot dispute and all this mighty fray
A little dust flung upward will allay.
But when both kings are settled in their hive,
Mark him who looks the worst, and lest he live
Idle at home in ease and luxury,
The lazy monarch must be doom'd to die ;
So let the royal insect rule alone,
And reign without a rival in his throne.
The kings are diff'rent; one of better note
All speck'd with gold, and many a shining spot,
Looks gay, and glistens in a gilded coat;
But love of ease, and sloth in one prevails,
That scarce his hanging paunch behind him trails :
The people's looks are different as their king's;
Some sparkle bright, and glitter in their wings:
Others look loathsome and diseas’d with sloth,
Like a faint traveller, whose dusty mouth
Grows dry with heat, and spits a mawkish froth.
The first are best-
From their o'erflowing combs, you'll often press
Pure luscious sweets, that, mingling in the glass,
Correct the harshness of the racy juice,
And a rich flavour through the wine diffuse.
But when they sport abroad, and rove from hoine, And leave the cooling hive, and quit th' unfinish'd
Their airy ramblings are with ease confin'd,
Clip their king's wings, and if they stay behind,
No bold usurper dares invade their right,
Nor sound a march, nor give the sign for flight.
Let flow'ry banks entice 'em to their cells,
And gardens all perfum'd with native smells;
Where carv'd Priapus has his fix'd abode,
The robber's terror, and the scare-crow god.
Wild thyme and pine trees from their barren hill
Transplant, and nurse them in their neighbouring soil,
Set fruit trees round, nor e'er indulge thy sloth,
But water them, and urge the shady growth.
And here, perhaps, were not I giving o'er,
And striking sail, and making to the shore,
I'd show what art the gard'ner's toils require,
Why rosy Pæstům blushes twice a year;
What streams the verdant succory supply,
And how the thirsty plant drinks rivers dry;
With what a cheerful green does parsley grace,
And writhes the bellying cucumber along the twisted
Nor would I pass the soft acanthus o’er,
Ivy nor myrtle trees that love the shore ;
Nor daffodils, that late from earth's slow wonib
Unrumple their swoln buds, and show their yellow
For once I saw in the Tarentine vale,
Where slow Galesus drench'd the washy soil,
An old Corician yeoman, who had got
A few neglected acres to his lot,
Where neither corn nor pasture grac'd the field,
Nor would the vine her purple harvest yield;