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The Bee

Sidney Lanier 1842 (Macon) – 1881 (Lynn)



What time I paced, at pleasant morn,
A deep and dewy wood,
I heard a mellow hunting-horn
Make dim report of Dian's lustihood
Far down a heavenly hollow.
Mine ear, though fain, had pain to follow:
`Tara!' it twanged, `tara-tara!' it blew,
Yet wavered oft, and flew
Most ficklewise about, or here, or there,
A music now from earth and now from air.
But on a sudden, lo!
I marked a blossom shiver to and fro
With dainty inward storm; and there within
A down-drawn trump of yellow jessamine
A bee
Thrust up its sad-gold body lustily,
All in a honey madness hotly bound
On blissful burglary.
A cunning sound
In that wing-music held me: down I lay
In amber shades of many a golden spray,
Where looping low with languid arms the Vine
In wreaths of ravishment did overtwine
Her kneeling Live-Oak, thousand-fold to plight
Herself unto her own true stalwart knight.

As some dim blur of distant music nears
The long-desiring sense, and slowly clears
To forms of time and apprehensive tune,
So, as I lay, full soon
Interpretation throve: the bee's fanfare,
Through sequent films of discourse vague as air,
Passed to plain words, while, fanning faint perfume,
The bee o'erhung a rich, unrifled bloom:
"O Earth, fair lordly Blossom, soft a-shine
Upon the star-pranked universal vine,
Hast nought for me?
To thee
Come I, a poet, hereward haply blown,
From out another worldflower lately flown.
Wilt ask, `What profit e'er a poet brings?'
He beareth starry stuff about his wings
To pollen thee and sting thee fertile: nay,
If still thou narrow thy contracted way,
-- Worldflower, if thou refuse me --
-- Worldflower, if thou abuse me,
And hoist thy stamen's spear-point high
To wound my wing and mar mine eye --
Nathless I'll drive me to thy deepest sweet,
Yea, richlier shall that pain the pollen beat
From me to thee, for oft these pollens be
Fine dust from wars that poets wage for thee.
But, O beloved Earthbloom soft a-shine
Upon the universal Jessamine,
Prithee, abuse me not,
Prithee, refuse me not,
Yield, yield the heartsome honey love to me
Hid in thy nectary!"
And as I sank into a dimmer dream
The pleading bee's song-burthen sole did seem:
"Hast ne'er a honey-drop of love for me
In thy huge nectary?"

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Submitted on May 13, 2011

1:59 min read
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Sidney Lanier

Sidney Lanier was a poet, writer, composer, critic, professor of literature at Johns Hopkins and first flutist with the Peabody Symphony Orchestra in Baltiimore. He wrote the Centennial cantata for the opening ceremony of the 1876 Centennial celebration in Philadelphia. more…

All Sidney Lanier poems | Sidney Lanier Books

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