« PreviousContinue »
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 must thinly on your work be strew'd;
But let no baleful yew tree flourish near,
Nor rotten marshes send out streams 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.
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 wind, through distant tracts of air,
And view the winged cloud all blackʼning from afar;
While shady coverts and fresh streams they choose,
Milfoil and common honey-suckles 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 hailstones 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 diff'rent as their kings; 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 home,
And leave the cooling hive, and quit th' unfinish'd comb;
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 them 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 the neighb'ring soil,
Set fruit trees round, nor e'er indulge thy sloth,
But water them, and urge their 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 gardener's toils require,
Why rosy Pæstum blushes twice a year;
What streams the verdant succory supply,
And how the thirsty plant drinks rivers dry;
What with a cheerful green does parsley grace,
And writhes the bellying cucumber along the twisted grass:
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 womb
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;
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 opening roses blow,
First ripening 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 dress'd,
As many blossoms as the spring could 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 recité.
Now I'll proceed their natures to declare,
Which Jove himself did on the bees confer;
Because, invited by the timbrel's sound,
Lodg❜d in a cave, th' almighty babe they found,
And the young god nurs’d kindly 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, labʼring 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 gluy 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 rise.