The Care Of Bees

The BeeHolder, Autumn 2013

In 29 BC, Virgil (70 - 19 BC) published “Georgics” - a poem in hexameters about Agriculture. It was a poem in 4 books, with book 4 being about bees. Poet laureate John Dryden (1631-1700) translated the work into English in 1697. His was probably the best attempt at getting the hexameter rhythm of classical Latin poetry. Here are some lines about a topical subject, taking off the honey. Read it out loud to get a sense of the style of the poetry of the Romans.

Now, when thou hast decreed to seize their stores,
And by prerogative to break their doors,And then pursue the citizens with smoke.
Two honey-harvests fall in every year.
First, when the pleasing Pleiades appear,
And, springing upward, spurn the briny seas:
Again, when their affrighted choir surveys
The watery Scorpion mend his pace behind,
With a black tram of storms, and winter wind,
They plunge into the deep, and safe protection find.
Prone to revenge, the bees, a wrathful race,
When once provoked, assault the aggressor's face,
And through the purple veins a passage find:
There fix their stings, and leave their souls behind.

Virgil (translated J Dryden)