BEHOLD those winged Images!
Bound for their Evening Bowers,--
They are The Nation of The Bees,
Born from the Breath of Flowers:
Strange people They! a mystic Race,
In life and food and dwelling place
They first were seen on Earth, 'tis said,
When the rose breathes in Spring,
Men thought Her blushing bosom shed
These Children of The Wing:
But lo! Their Host went down The Wind,
Fill'd with The Thoughts of God's own mind!
They built them Houses, made with hands,
And there, alone, They dwell,
No Man to this day understands
The mystery of Their Cell:
Your Mighty Sages cannot see
The deep foundations of The Bee!
Low in the Violet's Breast of Blue
For treasured food, they sink,
They know The Flowers that hold The Dew
For their small Race to drink;
They glide--King Solomon might gaze
With wonder on Their awful ways!
And once--it is a Grandame's Tale,
Yet fill'd with secret lore--
There dwelt, within a woodland-Vale,
Fast-by old Cornwall's shore,
An ancient woman, worn and bent,
Fallen Nature's mournful monument!
A Home had They--The Clustering Race,
Beside her Garden-Wall,
All Blossoms breathed around the place,
And Sunbeams fain would fall,--
The Lily loved that Comte the best
Of all The Valleys of The West!
But so it was, that on a Day,
When Summer built her Bowers,
The waxen Wanderers ceased to play
Around The Cottage-Flowers!
No hum was heard, no Wing would roam,
They dwelt within their cloister'd Home!
This lasted--long no tongue could tell
Their pastime or their toil!
What binds The Soldier to his Cell,
Who should divide The Spoil?
It lasted long--it fain would last,
Till Autumn rustled on The Blast!
Then sternly went that Woman old,
She sought the Chancel-Floor,
And there, with purpose bad and bold,
Knelt down amid The Poor,--
She took--She hid--That Blessed Bread,
Whereon The Invisible is shed!
She bare it to her distant Home,
She laid it by The Hive,
To lure The Wanderers forth to roam,
That so her Store might thrive;--
'Twas a Wild Wish, a Thought unblest,
Some evil Legend of The West.
But lo! at Morning-Tide a Sign,
For wondering eyes to trace!
They found above that Bread, a Shrine
Rear'd by The harmless Race!
They brought their walls from bud and flower,
They built bright Roof and beamy Tower!
Was it a dream? or did They hear,
Float from those golden Cells,
A Sound, as of some Psaltery near,
Or soft and silvery Bells?
A low sweet Psalm, that grieved within,
In mournful memory of The Sin!
Was it a dream? 'tis sweet no less
Set not The Vision free,
Long let the lingering Legend bless
The Nation of the Bee,--
So shall They bear upon their wings
A Parable of Sacred Things!
So shall They teach when Men blaspheme
Or Sacrament or Shrine,
That humbler Things may fondly dream
Of Mysteries Divine;
And holier hearts than his may beat,
Beneath The Bold Blasphemer's feet!