Nonfiction > Verse > Ralph Waldo Emerson > The Complete Works > Poems
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–1882).  The Complete Works.  1904.
Vol. IX. Poems
I. Poems
The Humble-Bee
BURLY, 1 dozing humble-bee,
Where thou art is clime for me.
Let them sail for Porto Rique,
Far-off heats through seas to seek;
I will follow thee alone,        5
Thou animated torrid-zone!
Zigzag steerer, desert cheerer,
Let me chase thy waving lines;
Keep me nearer, me thy hearer,
Singing over shrubs and vines.        10
Insect lover of the sun,
Joy of thy dominion!
Sailor of the atmosphere;
Swimmer through the waves of air;
Voyager of light and noon;        15
Epicurean of June;
Wait, I prithee, till I come
Within earshot of thy hum,—
All without is martyrdom.
When the south wind, in May days,        20
With a net of shining haze
Silvers the horizon wall,
And with softness touching all,
Tints the human countenance
With a color of romance,        25
And infusing subtle heats,
Turns the sod to violets,
Thou, in sunny solitudes,
Rover of the underwoods,
The green silence dost displace        30
With thy mellow, breezy bass.
Hot midsummer’s petted crone,
Sweet to me thy drowsy tone
Tells of countless sunny hours,
Long days, and solid banks of flowers;        35
Of gulfs of sweetness without bound
In Indian wildernesses found;
Of Syrian peace, immortal leisure,
Firmest cheer, and bird-like pleasure.
Aught unsavory or unclean        40
Hath my insect never seen;
But violets and bilberry bells,
Maple-sap and daffodels,
Grass with green flag half-mast high,
Succory to match the sky,        45
Columbine with horn of honey,
Scented fern, and agrimony,
Clover, catchfly, adder’s-tongue
And brier-roses, dwelt among;
All beside was unknown waste,        50
All was picture as he passed.
Wiser far than human seer,
Yellow-breeched philosopher!
Seeing only what is fair,
Sipping only what is sweet,        55
Thou dost mock at fate and care,
Leave the chaff, and take the wheat. 2
When the fierce northwestern blast
Cools sea and land so far and fast,
Thou already slumberest deep;        60
Woe and want thou canst outsleep;
Want and woe, which torture us,
Thy sleep makes ridiculous.
Note 1. This entry occurs in Mr. Emerson’s journal for 1837: “May 9. Yesterday in the woods I followed the fine humble-bee with rhymes and fancies fine.” On the next page he wrote, “The humble-bee and pine-warbler seem to me the proper objects of attention in these disastrous time.” [back]
Note 2. M. René de Poyen Belleisle, in a lecture called A French View of Emerson, given before the School of Philosophy in Concord in the summer of 1888, made use of an image drawn from honey-making (which Mr. Emerson borrowed from Montaigne in “Poetry and Imagination,” Letters and Social Aims, p. 16) to illustrate his method in philosophy: “Comment Emerson se sert-il des ses idées; ou, en autres termes, quelle est sa méthode? Je prononce là un mot qui sonne étrangement quand on parle d’Emerson…. La méthode d’Emerson est toute poétique. Il y a une phrase de Montaigne, que du reste Emerson s’est appropriée, et qui exprime admirablement ce que j’ai dans la pensée. ‘Les abeilles,’ dit Montaigne, ‘qui pillottent de ci, de là, font le miel qui est tout leur; ce n’est plus ni thym ni marjolaine.’ Le poëte est cette abeille: tout dans l’homme et dans la Nature l’attire et le miel qu’il en destille est sa pensée.” [back]

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