« ZurückWeiter »
Hellenic mythology received its finest finishing touches in his hands through the help of the sheep, and goats, and bees, that bleated and buzzed in the brightest of his sublime pictures. Then the goat was intimately mixed up with the origin of the drama: for tragedy, which was at first called trugædia, or "the song of the cask," came to be known as tragedia, or "the song of the goat,"the cask of wine giving place to the higher prize of a goat in the public festivals.
Are you fond of bees? Here I have them in a house to themselves, aspect south-east, a causeway cut for them through the belt of shrubs that screens them from the July sun, along which they pass in buzzing streams to the bramble-hedges and clover-fields, that divide and splash the landscape round. I am passionately fond of my bees. Many a dreamy hour of joy do I find in sitting beside them on a summer afternoon, to watch them go and come, to note the several labours on which they are engaged, every one of which I can determine as well as a master who keeps a rigid register of the labours of his workmen. Some of my hives are made of glass, some of wood, or straw, with glass windows; and in times of commotion, when the bees insist on non-interference, I can retire to the rear of my hive-board, and watch all that takes place within the several abodes of concord and industry. You will not doubt the difficulty I have in determining the exact number of the members of my family, if I tell you that my hive-board now contains ten strong stocks, every stock numbering not less than fifteen thousand bees-some, indeed, containing as many as five-and-twenty or thirty thousand, as I could
prove by experiment. Reaumur first hit upon a mode of counting bees: he weighed a swarm; the result was four pounds. Now a pound of bees contains five thousand individuals, and as many as half-a-dozen pounds of bees is the common weight of a strong and prosperous stock. Hence, if I tell you that nearly half a million hard-working folks recognise and love me as a father, you will at least allow I am a true pater familias, and in that sense, more worthy than even old Priam of Troy, who, I think, was the father of only fifty children.
Of course I read the "Georgics" of Virgil, and make many a brown study over Columella, and Schirach, and Reaumur, and Huber, and Cotton; nor do I forget old Tupper, who has a grand place in my library-no, nor Wildman, nor Nutt, nor Taylor, nor any other true student of this wonderful insect. Here, indeed, I can verify with my own hands and eyes many of the most startling discoveries that have been made as to the habits and instincts of the bee, and become daily familiar with facts that the majority of those who only read about them must regard as extravagant fictions. I see the queen, surrounded by her state attendants, every one of which right loyally faces the supreme female magistrate and mother of the state: never one of that dutiful train turning its back even for an instant to the royal mistress, who represents all, and more than can be imagined, of dignity and command concentrated into the compass of less than an inch. I see the progress and development of new broods, the deadly hate of rival queens, when it happens that two come into contact. As two claimants to a throne cause civil war in human states, so with the
bees, that in every thing represent the serious side of human life in all its minutia with wonderful accuracy. But the bees are the wisest; they never suffer the community to waste valuable energies in deciding a personal quarrel. They urge the rivals to single combat, and recognise the victor as their future mistress; the dead body of the vanquished being cast out from the city. There is no end to the marvellous in the history of the bee; and the studious possessor of them may have daily proof that neither classic lore nor modern scientific research has yet exhausted the catalogue of sober facts which in bee-history are every one too marvellous for credence, except to those who claim the bee as a member of the family. That they know and love their keeper, and submit cheerfully to his decrees, repelling the invading stranger from their causeway and neighbourhood, is the crowning mark of their sagacity, humble as they are in the scale of nature, and the trait that endears them to me more than any other; for I can safely say, "My bees know me," and give proof of it to any who shall choose to challenge their capability for distinguishing one man from another.
My catalogue does not end here. Oh no! but it is time to stop, waiting till, on a future occasion, some further particulars may be given from the Family Register. Suffice it for the present that ours is a happy family, the members of it, though various in tastes and appetites, are knit in strong household bonds, and are very dear to us for their confidence and affection, and the many lessons they daily teach us of the ways and means of nature. Indeed, we lead a very merry life in the midst of so in
congruous an assemblage. We wake to the bleating of goats and the song of birds; we breakfast with our parrots about us like a family-party; we dine, like royalty, to music; for then the parrots give place to some little golden-plumaged pets that glory in the clatter of knives and forks and dishes. Tea and supper are also musical meals; for we train many of our birds to sing by lamplight. And we sleep very pleasantly with the odour of ash-tree fires pervading the house in winter; and all the rest of the year fragrances of all kinds are wafted through the open windows from our little flowery garden, or from the miles and miles of hawthorns and haycocks that stretch on all sides around us.
THE JOY OF A GARDEN.
"A wilderness of flowers around us lying,
Tangling our steps the hidden pathway throng;
Life here is Eros, that hath ever been,
The sigh of Death forgot, the shadow Time unseen."
O BLINDING sunshine and green coolness! morning air and dew-powdered gossamers! O wakeful colours and sleepy odours! O shivering leaves and rustling bird's-wing! O joyful dawn, with hum of voices and O sultry noon, with dead stillness, silent, and oppressive! O mossy turf! O sparkling fountain! O dark mould, that, out of thy dead heart, sendest up the joy of summer in flowers that rise like souls released from the sepulchre! O emerald spring, crouching in shyness! O lusty summer, confronting the sun in thy bold strength and ardour! O fiery autumn, gathering the glories of all seasons to thyself, to swell the grandeur of thy flaming sacrifice and O hoary winter, magician and destroyer, by whose touch the world is hushed to rest, and the grave of beauty gar