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By turns they ease the laden swarms, or drive
The drone, a lazy insect, from their hive.
The work is warmly plied 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 thunderbolt 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 fretwork out with art:
The young at night, returning from their toils,
Bring home their thighs clogg'd with the meadows' spoils.
On lavender and saffron buds they feed,
On bending osiers, and the balmy reed,
From purple violets and the teil 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 build 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 gen'rous 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 every place.
Him all admire, all the great guardian own,
And crowd 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 given,
"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 watʼry 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 the entrance sets Her snares, and spins her bowels into nets.
When sickness reigns (for they as well as we Feel all th' effects of frail mortality) By certain marks the new disease is seen, Their colour changes, and their looks are thin ; Their funeral rites are form'd, and every bee With grief attends the sad solemnity; The few diseas'd survivors hang before Their sickly cells, and droop about the door, Or slowly in their hives their limbs unfold, Shrunk up with hunger, and benumb'd with cold ; In drawling hums the feeble insects grieve, And doleful buzzes echo through the hive,
Like winds that softly murmur through the trees,
Like flames pent up, or like retiring seas.
Now lay fresh honey near their empty rooms,
In troughs of hollow reeds, whilst frying gums
Cast round a fragrant mist of spicy fumes.
Thus kindly tempt the famish'd swarm to eat,
And gently reconcile them to their meat.
Mix juice of galls and wine, that grow in time
Condens'd by fire, and thicken to a slime;
To these dried roses, thyme, and centry join,
And raisins ripen'd on the Psythian vine.
Besides, there grows a flow'r in marshy ground, Its name amellus, easy to be found;
A mighty spring works in its root, and cleaves
The sprouting stalk, and shows itself in leaves:
The flow'r itself is of a golden hue,
The leaves inclining to a darker blue;
The leaves shoot thick about the flow'r, and grow
Into a bush, and shade the turf below:
The plant in holy garlands often twines
The altars' posts, and beautifies the shrines;
Its taste is sharp, in vales new-shorn it grows,
Where Mella's stream in wat'ry mazes flows.
Take plenty of its roots, and boil them well
In wine, and heap them up before the cell.
But if the whole stock fail, and none survive ;
To raise new people, and recruit the hive,
I'll here the great experiment declare,
That spread th' Arcadian shepherd's name so far.
How bees from blood of slaughter'd bulls have fled,
And swarms amidst the red corruption bred.