William Shakespeare, The Tempest, Act 5, Scene 1:
Where the bee sucks, there suck I:
In a cowslip’s bell I lie;
There I couch when owls do cry.
On the bat’s back I do fly.
After summer merrily:
Merrily, merrily, shall I live now
Under the blossom that hangs on the bough
The bees are back. These photos were taken early in June. The bee on the dandelion is actually two bees–I didn’t notice until I had the images in the computer and was playing with the zoom. (Photos are clickable.)
EL CANTO DE LA MIEL
La miel es la palabra de Cristo,
el oro derretido de su amor.
El más allá del néctar,
la momia de la luz del paraíso.
La colmena es una estrella casta,
pozo de ámbar que alimenta el ritmo
de las abejas. Seno de los campos
tembloroso de aromas y zumbidos.
La miel es la epopeya del amor,
la materialidad de lo infinito.
Alma y sangre doliente de las flores
condensada a través de otro espíritu.
(Así la miel del hombre es la poesía
que mana de su pecho dolorido,
de un panal con la cera del recuerdo
formado por la abeja de lo íntimo)
La miel es la bucólica lejana
del pastor, la dulzaina y el olivo,
hermana de la leche y las bellotas,
reinas supremas del dorado siglo.
La miel es como el sol de la mañana,
tiene toda la gracia del estío
y la frescura vieja del otoño.
Es la hoja marchita y es el trigo.
¡Oh divino licor de la humildad,
sereno como un verso primitivo!
La armonía hecha carne tú eres,
el resumen genial de lo lírico.
En ti duerme la melancolía,
el secreto del beso y del grito.
Dulcísima. Dulce. Este es tu adjetivo.
Dulce como los vientres de las hembras.
Dulce como los ojos de los niños.
Dulce como las sombras de la noche.
Dulce como una voz. O como un lirio.
Para el que lleva la pena y la lira,
eres sol que ilumina el camino.
Equivales a todas las bellezas,
al color, a la luz, a los sonidos.
¡Oh! Divino licor de la esperanza,
donde a la perfección del equilibrio
llegan alma y materia en unidad
como en la hostia cuerpo y luz de Cristo.
Y el alma superior es de las flores,
¡Oh licor que esas almas has unido!
El que te gusta no sabe que traga
un resumen dorado del lirismo.
But see if you really need any more bee poetry after absorbing this haiku from Matsuo Basho:
the bee emerges from the deep
within the peony
There is one house on my street that looks haunted, like the Addams Family could live there. Huge Victorian building, no lawn, peeling paint, cracked stained glass window at the top. But in spite of years of neglect, it is still easily the most impressive building on the block. Last week I met the owner and was invited inside to see his books. Same inside. The ravages of the years had not been able to subdue the sense of solidity and sacred space created by the filtered daylight, massive walnut furniture, oriental rugs, and Victorian architectural details.
The same sort of impressiveness comes through in the photography of Chicago artist Eric Holubow. The owner of the Victorian house and I were both drawn to his booth at the Hyde Park art fair later that day and spent several minutes looking at the photographs. His website uses the language of decay and disintegration to describe his vision, but being young he has missed the aspect of sacred space. In the most interesting of his photographs, once the building has been stripped of its cultural context, it still encloses, or maybe defines, or even creates a space that evokes…something. Something that defies time and transcends it.
He has also photographed a Gary, Indiana screw and bolt factory (see “Shirt Farm”) that was the scene of a scam involving a south side Chicago church that collected clothing to send to Africa. Instead, the clothing sits rotting in this abandoned factory. More images of the factory on this YouTube video.
The rain has ended and it’s time for non-stop gardening, punctuated only by enough medicine to keep the inevitable aches at bay and smearing Neosporin on the scratches that have appeared on the typing surfaces of my fingers.
But I have not forgotten my adoring public. Here are some real bees, unlike the creatures in the previous post that turned out to be wasps. You can see the honey sacks on their legs. Also, they are quite furry. The bee in the first photograph is still in flight; the camera lens is not fast enough to stop the action of its wings. You can see only a silver shine where the moving wings are.
Bee poem links after the photos.
Bee poem: Osip Mandelstam’s 1920 “Take from my hand…” Here is the third stanza, in Russian, and two versions in English: Languagehat’s translation, that to me shows the richness and texture of the original Russian, and Slawkenbergius’ translation, which takes liberties with the original that illuminate the poem and crystallize the understanding of it.
Mandelstam: Нам остаются только поцелуи,
Мохнатые, как маленькие пчелы,
Что умирают, вылетев из улья.
LH: The only thing that’s left to us is kisses:
furry, like the little bees
who die in midair, flying from their hive.
Slawk: So we are left, alas, only with kisses
Covered in wool, like feeble, tiny bees
Which tumble lifeless when they leave the hive.
Google translate: We are only kissing, Shaggy, like little bees dying, taking off from the hive.
When I went across the street this morning to gather mint for my morning tea, the bees were taking quite an interest in the mint patch. It wasn’t the mint that interested them though, it was last year’s garlic stalks. You could actually hear the sound of them chewing the dry stalks. I suppose they need it to build some sort of honeycomb.
For corresponding poetry here are a few lines of Sylvia Plath’s “The Bee Meeting”:
Who are these people at the bridge to meet me? They are the
The rector, the midwife, the sexton, the agent for bees.
In my sleeveless summery dress I have no protection,
And they are all gloved and covered, why did nobody tell me?
They are smiling and taking out veils tacked to ancient hats.
Since Ariel was republished, with some new material, most of the open source websites where you could get a taste of her writing have evaporated, some with a terse copyright explanation, but you can still read the rest of the first bee poem and some commentary at the Sylvia Plath forum.
Plath wrote a series of five bee poems: The Bee Meeting, The Arrival of the Bee Box, Stings, The Swarm, and Wintering; here is a link to a series of essays about the bee series, as well as a few more snippets of the poems. If you read The Bell Jar back in the 60’s, and puzzled about her suicide, the bee poems show a little different side of the poet.
On second thought, judging by the lack of furriness, these might be wasps. In which case, let me offer up a wasp poem:
"Enrich me with knowledge."
It would surely be better ... to give up not only a part, but, if necessary, even the whole, of our constitution, to preserve the remainder!
-Boyle Roche arguing for the habeas corpus suspension bill in Ireland.
"Procrastination isn't the problem, it's the solution. So procrastinate now, don't put it off."