Bees and honey from our literary heritage

Perhaps my interest in bees stems as much from an obsession with Winnie the Pooh as an almost escaped memory that my great grandmother kept bees.  Actually, Pooh cannot have had that much of an influence because I’ve shied away from honey most of my life.

A A Milne was only notable author who mentioned bees.  I thought it would be great to collate some well written words on the subject.

Starting, of course, with Pooh.

“The only reason for being a bee that I know of is making honey… and the only reason for making honey is so I can eat it.” –Winnie the Pooh House at Pooh Corner by A.A. Milne

Oh, is the water sweet and cool,
Gentle and brown, above the pool?
And laughs the immortal river still
Under the mill, under the mill?
Say, is there Beauty yet to find?
And Certainty? and Quiet kind?
Deep meadows yet, for to forget
The lies, and truths, and pain?… oh! yet
Stands the Church clock at ten to three?
And is there honey still for tea?

Rupert Brooke, 1912

With the minutes of our recent meeting for the Hughenden Buzz (Hughenden Manor Apiary), Keith reminded me of these words:

‘Oh, the humming of the bees,

And the cigarette trees,

The soda water fountain,

Where the lemonade springs,

And the Bluebird sings,

In the Big Rock Candy Mountain’

For Christmas 2011 I received a book of poems from Carol Ann Duffy.  I have not been a great fan of modern poetry but the title of the book – Bees was obviously a trigger.  Also, I have heard of this poet so the thirst for some opportunity to gain my own assessment was strong.  As a child I loved our set book of Dauber and Reynard the Fox.  The latter painted a verbal picture of the fox and its dash through the countryside.  Living quite close to Masefield stamping ground, the countryside he described seemed so familiar it must have made it easier for me to understand the power of the verse.  We had an excellent English teacher, Mrs Hughes,and on reflection she must have done her utmost to help us experience how the rhythm of the words at times almost sounded like the thud of the fox’s paws as he tried to escape the hounds.  In those days Betjeman’s voice was heard on radio and of course he also used the rhythm to reflect the sound of the train and travelling by train, or hearing it pass at the edge of my village, meant poetry was seeped into my being.

The poem Ariel is interesting as it starts with an almost traditional poetic phrase and then catapaults itself into the modern world:

‘Where the bee sucks, neonicotinoid insecticides…’

then it returns to flowery poetic words

‘..in a cowslip’s bell lie, in fields purple with lavender, yellow with rape…’

 

I can certainly identify with all of that.


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