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ETHEREAL Sweets shall next
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.
First for your bees a proper station find,
That's fenc'd about, and shelter'd from the wind;
For winds divert them in their flight, and drive
The swarms, when loaden homeward, from their hive,
Nor sheep, nor goats, must pasture near their stores,
To trample under foot the springing flow'rs;
Nor frisking heifers bound about the place,
spurn the dew-drops off, and bruise the rising grass: Nor must the lizard's painted brood appear, Nor wood-pecks, nor the swallow harbour near. They waste the swarms, and as they fly along Convey their tender morsels to their young.
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 winds
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 near,
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.
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,
Born 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 chuse,
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 maukish 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 '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 Pæstum 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 grass;
Nor would I pass the soft acanthus o'er,
Ivy nor myrtle trees that love the shore;
Nor daffadils, that late from earth's slow womb
Unrumple their swoln buds, and show their yellow bloom,
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 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 lindons 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,