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Telling the Bees

 Here is the place; right over the hill 
Runs the path I took; 
You can see the gap in the old wall still, 
And the stepping-stones in the shallow brook.
There is the house, with the gate red-barred, And the poplars tall; And the barn's brown length, and the cattle-yard, And the white horns tossing above the wall.
There are the beehives ranged in the sun; And down by the brink Of the brook are her poor flowers, weed-o'errun, Pansy and daffodil, rose and pink.
A year has gone, as the tortoise goes, Heavy and slow; And the same rose blows, and the same sun glows, And the same brook sings of a year ago.
There 's the same sweet clover-smell in the breeze; And the June sun warm Tangles his wings of fire in the trees, Setting, as then, over Fernside farm.
I mind me how with a lover's care From my Sunday coat I brushed off the burrs, and smoothed my hair, And cooled at the brookside my brow and throat.
Since we parted, a month had passed, -- To love, a year; Down through the beeches I looked at last On the little red gate and the well-sweep near.
I can see it all now, -- the slantwise rain Of light through the leaves, The sundown's blaze on her window-pane, The bloom of her roses under the eaves.
Just the same as a month before, -- The house and the trees, The barn's brown gable, the vine by the door, -- Nothing changed but the hives of bees.
Before them, under the garden wall, Forward and back, Went drearily singing the chore-girl small, Draping each hive with a shred of black.
Trembling, I listened: the summer sun Had the chill of snow; For I knew she was telling the bees of one Gone on the journey we all must go! Then I said to myself, "My Mary weeps For the dead to-day: Haply her blind old grandsire sleeps The fret and the pain of his age away.
" But her dog whined low; on the doorway sill, With his cane to his chin, The old man sat; and the chore-girl still Sung to the bees stealing out and in.
And the song she was singing ever since In my ear sounds on: -- "Stay at home, pretty bees, fly not hence! Mistress Mary is dead and gone!"

by John Greenleaf Whittier
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