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THE HIVE OF BEES:

A FABLE, WRITTEN IN DECEMBER 1792.

1 In antient legends of past time we find,
2 Birds, beasts, and insects us'd to speak their mind,
3 And oft by fable serious truths impart
4 To mend the morals and to strike the heart:
5 Nay Solomon himself would deign to say,
6 Go to the Ant, thou sluggard! learn her way.
7 But now alas! in these degenerate times,
8 Insects have learn'd from men to ape their crimes;
9 The table's turn'd false morals now are shewn
10 In place of true a sad reverse you'll own.
11 A hive of bees within a certain grove
12 Had long enjoy'd contentment, peace, and love,
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13 Fed on each source of sweet that earth bestows,
14 Ev'n from the cowslip to the stately rose;
15 Each morn had sipp'd of dew from Heav'n, which fell
16 And lodg'd in silver'd cup or golden bell;
17 Had drawn the nectar of each fragrant flower
18 To carry treasures to their native bower,
19 And there in cells of curious form they stor'd
20 Their several tributes to the general hoard;
21 Then safe at night were shelter'd by those bowers,
22 Where first they swarm'd, when in their infant hours
23 Each morn they sallied with the rising sun,
24 Nor e'er returned until their task was done;
25 For arts and industry had made them great,
26 And seemingly had fix'd their happy state;
27 A state, where nature's policy doth trace
28 To every bee his station, rank, and place:
29 Some form'd to labour for the public good,
30 Others to nurse the young, and chew their food;
31 Some on the watch as centinels between
32 Whatever danger may assail their queen;
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33 For every hive is in itself protected,
34 Whilst to it's sovereign it is well affected,
35 But now no further to dilate my story,
36 This hive, when at it's highest pitch of glory,
37 Like other states did subjects still contain
38 Of discontented mind and heated brain,
39 Prone to adopt and lead some new opinion,
40 Spurning restraint, and grasping at dominion;
41 These oft with greedy list'ning ear repair'd
42 Close to a neighb'ring hive, from whence they heard
43 A murmuring hum, as if from discontent,
44 Of liberty, no queen, no government;
45 Let all be equal, and these lordly drones
46 Be set to work to shape these ugly cones:
47 'Tis slavery I swear no more will I
48 Lag home with honey in my bag and thigh,
49 Much sooner will I dart my sting and die.
50 Thus saying, oft their measures they'd debate,
51 And in convention plot against the state;
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52 But here disorder mark'd their wretched way,
53 Each claim'd his right, a right to bear the sway,
54 And left the loyal bees their haunts should see,
55 They dar'd not light upon a flower or tree,
56 Where aught of substance, fit for daily food,
57 Might be extracted for the public good;
58 But conscious of their base intent, they shun
59 Whatever spreads its blossoms to the sun,
60 And to the deadly nightshade darkling flew,
61 Or on the hemlock swarm'd, or pois'nous yew,
62 And there their mischiefs hatch'd in fell debate,
63 There plann'd the downfal of their queen and state:
64 So loud they buzz'd their murmurs thro' the trees,
65 Of liberty, no work the rights of bees
66 That echo swift convey'd the infectious sound,
67 And Liberty no work rebellow'd round.
68 Their plot now ripe, they act the fatal scene,
69 Murder the guards, and then confine their queen;
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70 Rebellion buzzes thro' the straw-built dome
71 "Seize, seize the honey, and lay waste the comb!
72 Destroy each cell, for labour now is o'er,
73 We'll feast and revel on the public store."
74 And now how gladly would I draw a veil
75 O'er the remaining sequel of my tale;
76 But recent facts require I should relate
77 How bad example marr'd the happy state.
78 Tho' most with horror heard the soul disgrace
79 Brought on the noblest of the insect race,
80 Yet those who had enlisted in the plan,
81 And long'd like them to copy after man,
82 Now vend their poisons, and in treasons dire
83 Against their friends, their queen, their hive conspire,
84 Whilst swarms from forth the rebel state combine
85 To prosecute the horrible design,
86 And, shame to tell, tho' courteously receiv'd,
87 League against those by whom they are reliev'd.
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88 Arous'd at length, the loyal bees unite
89 To save their state, and arm them for the fight,
90 True to their sovereign, who with gentle sway
91 So mildly rul'd, 'twas freedom to obey;
92 And now behold them eager and alert
93 To expel the traitors and their schemes avert;
94 Taught by examples terrible as these,
95 That faction blasts the happiness of bees,
96 Active they keep their vigilance alive
97 To guard their monarch, property, and hive.

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    Title (in Source Edition): THE HIVE OF BEES: A FABLE, WRITTEN IN DECEMBER 1792.
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    Genres: heroic couplet; fable

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    Poems, &c. &c. by the Late Mrs. Mary Alcock [poems only]. London: Printed for C. Dilly, Poultry, 1799, pp. 25-30. vii,[25],183,[1]p. (ESTC T86344) (Page images digitized by University of California Libraries.)

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    The text has been typographically modernized, but without any silent modernization of spelling, capitalization, or punctuation. The source of the text is given and all editorial interventions have been recorded in textual notes. Based on the electronic text originally produced by the ECCO-TCP project, this ECPA text has been edited to conform to the recommendations found in Level 5 of the Best Practices for TEI in Libraries version 3.0.

    Other works by Mary Alcock (née Cumberland)