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Telling the Bees

Written by: John Greenleaf Whittier | Biography
 | Quotes (20) |
 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!"



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