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THE HUMBLEBEE 1

RALPH WALDO EMERSON

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) was born in Boston. He was descended from a long line of New England clergymen. As a boy, he was so poor that he and his brother attended school on alternate days because they had only one coat between them. Despite his poverty, he managed to graduate from Harvard. He became a clergyman and preached for a time in Cotton Mather's church. His belief did not wholly accord with that of the church, so he gave up preaching, and spent the rest of his life in writing and lecturing.

His Essays, such as the one on Self-Reliance, are his most popular works, but he also wrote some exquisite verse. His most enjoyable poetry has some phase of nature for its subject. This was his poetic creed:

“In the deep heart of man a poet dwells

Who all the day of life his summer story tells.”
See also:

Halleck’s History of American Literature, pp. 178–193, 283.
Oliver Wendell Holmes's Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Woodberry's Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Garnett's Life of Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Emerson's Journals.

BURLY dozing humblebee !
Where thou art is clime for me.
Let them sail for Porto Rique,2
Far-off heats through seas to seek,
I will follow thee alone,

Thou animated torrid zone! 1 This poem is used by permission of, and arrangement with, Houghton Mifflin Com. pany, authorized publishers of Emerson's works. a Porto Rico.

Zig-zag steerer, desert-cheerer,
Let me chase thy waving lines,
Keep me nearer, me thy hearer,
Singing over shrubs and vines.

Insect lover of the sun,
Joy of thy dominion !
Sailor of the atmosphere,
Swimmer through the waves of air,
Voyager of light and noon,
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,
With a net of shining haze,
Silvers the horizon wall,
And, with softness touching all,
Tints the human countenance
With a color of romance,
And, infusing subtle heats,
Turns the sod to violets,
Thou in sunny solitudes,
Rover of the underwoods,
The green silence dost displace,
With thy mellow breezy bass.

Hot midsummer's petted crone,
Sweet to me thy drowsy tone,
Telling of countless sunny hours,
Long days, and solid banks of flowers,
1 One who luxuriates in, thoroughly enjoys, June.

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,
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,
Columbine with horn of honey,
Scented fern, and agrimony,
Clover, catchfly, adder's-tongue,
And brier-roses dwelt among;
All beside was unknown waste,
All was picture as he passed.

Wiser far than human seer,
Yellow-breeched philosopher !
Seeing only what is fair,
Sipping only what is sweet,
Thou dost mock at fate and care,
Leave the chaff and take the wheat,
When the fierce northwestern blast
Cools sea and land so far and fast,
Thou already slumberest deep.

STUDY HINTS How many different names does the poet give to the bee? Which do you think suits it best? Explain this allusion and its fitness, “Epicurean of June.” What does the last line of the second stanza mean? What does it show? What does he emphasize in order to make May seem attractive? Compare his treatment of May with Lowell's of June (p. 198). Does each poet tend to increase our enjoyment of those months? What, then, is one use of poetry? How does the hum of the bee change from May to midsummer? How many of the flowers and plants mentioned by Emerson have you actually seen? From which have you seen the humblebee “sipping only what is sweet”? Why is he called “wiser far than human seer”? Is it possible for us to determine what we shall see and “sip"? What does Emerson like best in the bee? What does his hum in summer tell the poet? What is your impression of the poet? What words give you this impression ? Memorize at least one stanza.

SUGGESTIONS FOR ADDITIONAL READINGS
The Rhodora. Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Concord Hymn. Ralph Waldo Emerson.
The Snow Storm. Ralph Waldo Emerson.
The Mountain and the Squirrel. Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Forbearance. Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Solomon and the Bees. John G. Saxe.
The Taxgatherer (from Child Verse). John B. Tabb.
The Bumblebee. James Whitcomb Riley.
The Bee. Emily Dickinson.

AN EPITAPH ON SALATHIEL PAVY

A Child of Queen Elizabeth's Chapel

BEN JONSON

Ben Jonson (15737-1637) was born in London. He rose from the humble trade of a bricklayer to the position of a popular playwright at the court of James I. He was also the author of some exquisite lyrics, such as, “Drink to me only with thine eyes.” He was an intimate friend of Shakespeare. See also:

Halleck's New English Literature, pp. 199–205, 219.
Symonds's Ben Jonson.

[In Elizabethan days boys acted the female parts in the plays. Ophelia, Portia, Miranda, and Lady Macbeth were all impersonated by boys. The parts of old men were also occasionally played by boys. Salathiel Pavy, the subject of this epitaph, was, as Jonson tells us, a boy who acted such parts.

In the tragedy of Hamlet, Shakespeare makes a reference to boy actors (see Halleck's New English Literature, p. 166) that shows how popular they had become.]

WEEP with me, all you that read

This little story;
And know, for whom a tear you shed

Death's self is sorry.
'Twas a child that so did thrive

In grace and feature,
As heaven and nature seemed to strive
Which owned the creature.

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