James Grahame Poems >>
British Georgics. July

No more at dewy dawn, or setting sun,
The blackbird's song floats mellow down the dale;
Mute is the lark, or soars a shorter flight,
With carol briefly trilled, and soon descends.
In full luxuriance clothed, of various green,
The laughing fields and meadows, far and wide,
Gladden the eye: all-beauteous now
The face of Nature smiles serenely gay;
And even the motley race of weeds enhance
Her rural charms: Yet let them not be spared;
Still as they rise, unconquered, let the hoe
Or ploughshare crush them. In your fields permit
No wild-flower to expand its teeming bloom:
In wod and wild, there let them bud and blow
By haunted streamlet, where the wandering bee,
Humming from cup to bell, collects their sweets.

  Though rarely prized by husbandmen, whose bounds,
Embrace a widely spread domain, the bee
Is not contemned by him, whose narrow means,
Upon his ploughgate croft, require the help
Of every rural art ; nor by the man
Whose sole possession is his cottage home,
And garden plat ; nor yet by him who loves
Now to survey the planets as they roll,
Now to explore the wondrous insect's ways,
Adoring, while in both he traces power,
Almighty as benign.

             This month requires,
From all who cultivate the frugal race,
A vigilance unceasing, lest unwarned
They lift too late their lightened hives, and find
The younger broods have ta'en a distant flight.
If in an evening sky, serene and calm,
The martins higher than their wonted flight,
On arrowy pinions, scarcely quivering, soar,
And make the lofty turret or the spire,
That far below low'rs in the deepening shade,
Seem of its height diminished,-- then the air
Its utmost buoyancy has gained; and hence
All things that in the liquid region ply,
Each bird and insect, float on easy wing:
On such an eve, who marks the martin's flight,
Needs not to scan the argent column's rise
Prophetic, but, from Nature's signs, foresees
A ruddy morning tinge the dappled cope.

  Oft when, at even-tide, a cluster hangs
No larger than laburnum's tasseled flower,
Long ere the morrow's sun has dried the dews,
The emigrating tribe is gone past hope;
Nor, after anxious search o'er hill and dale,
Does e'er the slumberous owner hear again
Their welcome hum.----

            Or, on a Sabbath morn,
Cloudy and calm, with one sunny gleam
To lure them forth, I've seen a numerous swarm
(Whether attracted by the silence deep
And pause of rural toil, or sudden struck
By that instinctive impulse, which directs
More wisely than proud Reason's rules,) rush out
In myriads and take wing; while mingling sounds
Of distant church-bell, and the jangling pan,
Essayed in vain to stop the living cloud.

  Such flights to hinder, nought conduces more
Than warm exposure, sheltered, sunny, low,
With pebbly rivulet, murmuring near at hand
O'er stones emerging from its chafing stream.
Before, but not so near as to o'ershade
Your buzzing hamlet, let the linden tree
Sweet foliaged, and laburnum's golden flowers,
Present the tribe, when meditating flight,
A tempting seat, a blossoming abode.
Let all around a labyrinth extend
Of various shrubs, blooming at various times,
From the first breath of Spring, till Autumn's tinge
The universal blush with sober brown;--
And first the downy-blossomed palm, the sloe-bush dark,
Whose early flower anticipates the leaf,
The hawthorn, witness of fond lovers' vows,
The purple lilac, and the golden broom,
The rosy brier, and bramble stretching far
It's prickly arms. Defended by such walls,
In open plats be seen flowers of all hue,
And odorous herbs,-- sweet rosmarine,
With wild thyme, breathing far its fresh perfume;
The early daisy, and the crocus cup;
The violet that loves a mossy couch;
The pale primrose; auricula full fraught
With vernal incense; lily-beds profuse,
As if some shaded wreath of Winter's snow
Had lingered in the chilly lap of Spring;
Fair daffodils, hyacinthine rods
Enwreathed with azure bells, pinks, marigolds,
And every blossom of the later year.
Who loves the labouring race, fails not to fill
Each nook around his dwelling-place with flowers,
Till every breeze that through his lattice plays
Bear fragrance, loading with delight the sense;
Even round his windows carefully he trains
Lithe honey-suckles, vocal with the hum
Of the loved tribes, which, on a summer's day,
While screened he sits within the quivering shade,
Lull every care, and charm his waking dream.

  But none of all the flowery race affords
Supplies so plentiful of honey lymph,
As, on a misty morning, calm, serene,
Are seen, though rarely, pendent from the spikes
Of drooping speargrass; then all other herbs,
Each gaudy chaliced bloom, that in the sun
Twinkles with sterile dew, deserted hangs;
And busily the humming labourers ply
Their easy task, returning loaded soon
In oft-repeated journies to the hive.

  Than days preceded by these honied morns,
No time is more propitious for the flight
Of overflowing swarms. Soon as the sun
Has dried the dew, the light precursors fly,
Like warping midges on a summer's eve,
In reeling dance before the crowded porch.
Others along the outside of the hive
Run hurriedly, then stopping, ply their wings.
The inner legions, pouring from the gate,
Increase the pendent cluster, till at once,
Streaming, it mounts in air, but soon alights
Upon some neighbouring spray, which blackened bends
Beneath the load. Haste, spread the sheet, and lay
Two rods of mountain-ash along, to keep
An opening all around the hive when set.
Next cut the loaded branch, nor hesitate,
Though, tempting, through the heaving bunch peep forth
The purpling tint of plumbs full-formed, or ripe
The luscious cherry plead like beauty's lip:
Pomona's self her pruning hook would urge,
And save the living fruit: then spare not thou
The knife; yet use it gently; gently bear
The buzzing branch, and gently lay it down
Between the rowan rods; then o'er it place
Slowly the hive, and softly spread o'er all
Another sheet: quick to the transverse spokes
The myriad tribes will mount, and peaceful fill
Their new abode. There let them rest,
Until the sultry hours begin to cool.
Upon a level board then place the hive,
And round the juncture close each crevise up
With well-wrought clay: the noxious reptile race
Will else intrude. Sometimes through narrowest chink
The crawling snail, insinuating, drags
His slimy length, and riots on the comb.
Even here resources in themselves, devised,
Wisely devised, to meet the dire event,
Are by the ever-wondrous race displayed.
To death they first, with many a sting, devote
The unwelcome guest; and then the monstrous mass,
Which else, corrupting, through the commonwealth
Would spread contagion, closely they entomb
In catacomb, as in his pristine shell.

  When Summer's blow of flowers begins to fade,
Some to the moorlands bear their hives, to cull
The treasures of the heathbell; simple flower!
That still extends its purple tint as far
As eye can reach, round many an upland farm:
There still, of genuine breed, the colly meets,
Barking shrill-toned, the stranger rarely seen;
While near some rushy ricks of meadow hay
The startled horse stands gazing, then around
His tether-length of twisted hair full stretched,
He snorting scours: a toothless harrow serves
For garden gate,-- where, duly ranged, the hives
Stand covered till the evening shades descend.
But when the sun-beams glisten on the dew,
Forth fly the stranger tribes, and far and near
Spread o'er the purple moor, cheering the task
Of him who busy digs his winter fuel;
For 'mid these wilds no sound gives sign of life
Save hum of bee, or grasshopper's hoarse chirp;
Or when the heath-fowl strikes her distant call;
Or plovers, lighting on the half-buried tree,
Scream their dire dirge where once the linnet sung.

  If e'er disease assail the humming race,
(For they, no more than man, escape disease,)
Its first approaches watch: nor are the signs
Ambiguous of their state: their colour fades;
A haggard leanness in their visage speaks;
The bodies then, bereft of life, are borne
From out the silent porch, and frequent flies
The winged funeral: deep, meanwhile, within,
A murmur faint, and long drawn out, is heard.
Like south winds moaning through a grove of pines.
Here, let me urge to burn strong-scented herbs,
Neglecting not the helpless commonwealth
To aid with honied reeds, pushed gently in:
And with the offered food fear not to mix
Oak-apple juice, dried roses, and wild thyme,
With centaury, exhaling powerful fumes.
In meadows grows a flower, by husbandmen
Called starwort; easily it may be known,
For, springing from a single root, it spreads
A foliage affluent, golden-hued itself,
While from the leaves of darkest violet,
An under-tint of lighter purple shines:
Harsh to the taste, it wrings the shepherd's mouth:
Its root, in wine infused, affords at once
The hapless sufferers medicine and food.

  To man himself, the honey cell is found,
In various ills, a virtue to possess
Surpassing far the medicated cup--
Simple the remedies which Nature gives!
What cure so simple, and so powerful too,
As is the watery element, when fierce
Through every vein the sultry season rolls
A fev'rous tide, and fell Delirium nails,
Upon the throbbing head, his glowing crown.
O'er the parched skin the cold affusion flows
Again, and yet again, in copious stream;
Till by degrees, more calmly, slowly, leaps
The restless pulse; delicious coolness glides
Through all the frame; and, as when thunder-clouds
Have rolled away, and forky fires have ceased
To vex the welkin, forth the sun again
Looks down complacently on wood and stream;
Illumined by his smile, the drooping flowers,
The trees, rejoice;-- so from the eye, obscured
Erewhile, the renovated soul beams forth
Intelligence on child and watching friend,
Raising their hands in silent thanks to God!

  And did the Sage, whose powerful genius shed
A flood of light, where only glimmering rays
Erewhile confounded, not illumed, the path
Of science,-- did that man, the orphan's friend,
Die unrewarded! No; a meed was his
His dying hour,-- the sweet solacing thought,
That, though no more beside the couch of pain
His accents wafted healing on their wings,
His silent page, amid Disease's storm,
Was still the guiding chart to Safety's shore!
O what a balm to his benignant soul,
When looking forward to the parting hour,
To think that then, perhaps, some weeping groupe
Hailed, through his means, a parent snatched from death!

  Yet not alone, to quench the burning pest,
Its wondrous power the gelid lymph exerts;
Oft it extinguishes the kindling spark;
And when a youthful band, buoyant with joy,
Hie to the river side, they little ween,
That safety thus with pleasure is combined.
Come, then, ye jovial swains! and in the shade,
Ere sultry noon, throw off your cumb'rous garb:
The pool, relucent to its pebbly bed,
With here and there a slowly-sailing trout,
Invites the throbbing, half-reluctant, breast
To plunge :-- the dash re-echoes from the rocks,
And smooth, in sinuous course, the swimmer winds;
Now, with extended arms, rowing his way,
And now, floating with sunward face, outstretched,
Till, blinded by the dazzling beam, he turns,
Then to the bottom dives, emerging soon
With stone, as trophy, in his waving hand.