To the Wild Bee.

One of my boyhood’s dearest loves wert thou,1
Melodious rover of the summer bowers ;2
And never can I see or hear thee now,3
Without a fond remembrance of the hours4
When youth had garden’d life for me with flowers !5
Thou bringest to my mind the white-thorn bough,6
The blooming heath, and fox-glove of the fells ;7
And, strange though it appear,8
Methinks in every hum of thine I hear9
A breeze-born tinkling from my country’s own blue-bells.10
Most sweet and cheering memories are these11
To one who loves so well his native land12
Who loves its mountains, rivulets, and trees,13
With all the flowers that spring from nature’s hand,14
And not at man’s elaborate command.15
Yet, ah, they are no more than memories :16
For I have dwelt perforce this many a year17
Amid the city’s gloom,18
And only hear thy quick and joyous boom,19
When thou my dusky window haply passest near.20
No longer can I closely watch thy range21
From fruit to flower, from flower to budding tree,22
Musing how lover-like thy course of change,23
Yet from all ills of human passion free.24
Though thou the summer’s libertine may be,25
And, having reft its sweetness, may estrange26
Thyself thenceforward from the flow’ret’s view,27
No sting thou leav’st behind28
No trace of reckless waste with thee we find29
And sweetly singest thou to earn thy honey-dew.30
Oft have I marvell’d at the faultless skill31
With which thou trackest out thy dwelling-cave,32
Winging thy way with seeming careless will33
From mount to plain, o’er lake and winding wave :34
The powers which God to earth’s first creature gave,35
Seem far less fit their purpose to fulfil36
Than thy most wondrous instinct—if, indeed,37
We should not think it shame,38
To designate by such ambiguous name39
The bright endowments which have been to thee decreed.40
Hurtful, alas ! too oft are boyhood’s loves.41
The merle, encaged beneath the cottage eaves,42
The pecking sparrow, or the cooing doves,43
The chattering daw, most dexterous of thieves,44
That oftentimes the careful housewife grieves,45
And nimbly springs aloof when she reproves46
Happier by far these pets of youth would be,47
Had they been left alone,48
To human care or carelessness unknown,49
Roaming amid the woods, unheeded still and free !50
Well, too, for thee, wert thou thus left, poor Bee !51
In chase of thee and thy congeners all,52
How oft have I coursed o’er the fields with glee,53
Despite all hindrances of hedge or wall54
That in my onward way might chance to fall :55
But, ah, though fervently admiring thee,56
Thy piebald stripes, perchance, or golden hues,57
Too often then did death58
Bring sudden pause to thy harmonious breath,59
And all for thy sweet bag, so rich with balmy dews.60
Nor could the beauty of thy earthen home,61
In a green bank beneath a fir-tree made,62
With its compact and overarching dome,63
Enveloping thy treasure-stores in shade64
Nor the fine roadway, serpentinely laid65
Nor all thy lovely cups of honied comb66
Protect thee from the instruments of ill,67
Who forced thy tiny cave,68
And made a place of peace and joy a grave,69
Killing thy race, though still admiring while they kill.70
Vainly against the thoughtless plunderers,71
Didst thou direct thy poison-pointed sting ;72
With branches from the super pendent firs,73
They beat thee down, and bruised thy little wing :74
Thy queen, although a strangely gifted thing,75
Saw ruin fall on all that once was hers,76
Nor could the hand of fell destruction check :77
Thy cells, of honey reft,78
In one confused, sod-mingled mass were left,79
And thou, thy home and works, lay whelmed in one sad wreck.80
Hence, though the wild flowers of my native hills81
Before my mind at sight of thee arise,82
And though my sense their fancied fragrance fills,83
And their bright bloom delights my inner eyes,84
Yet painful thoughts the while my breast chastise.85
Oh, could poor man accomplish what he wills,86
I would live o’er my days of youth again,87
If but to cherish thee,88
With kindness unalloy’d, thou little busy Bee,89
And have thy memory unmix’d with aught of pain !90
But still to me thou art a thing of joy !91
And the sweet hope is mine, that this new age92
Shall see thee saved from all such sore annoy.93
Following a path alike benign and sage,94
The Man doth now his faculties engage95
In teaching early wisdom to the Boy.96
Youth now shall love thee, and have no desire97
To hunt, or hurt, or kill ;98
And thou henceforth shalt safely roam at will,99
The happiest, merriest member of the summer choir !100