Imágenes de páginas
PDF

A LOYAL PEOPLE WITHOUT A SOVEBEIGN. 241

accustomed, at intervals, thus to turn their backs on labour and recruit for fresh exertions. But few enough are the slumberers now taking their repose; the grand event of the morning has raised a general commotion by no means subsided with the absence of its immediate cause, from which mighty effects are yet about to spring.

"From the departure of their reigning monarch and queen-mother, our Amazonian citizens are, for the present, queenless. What a predicament for a people whose very spring of action is set in motion, as we have seen, by loyalty; but it is an exigence, to meet which they are well provided. Among the common six-sided cells which compose the mass of building, are perceived some half-dozen structures, of more than thrice their size, which are occupied as abodes of growing royalty; and within these waxen palaces have been, for some weeks, nurtured, in different stages of progression towards maturity, as many young princesses, for one of which the vacant throne is destined. For which of them? is the question which priority of birth and emergement from one of the cells of state is now to settle; for at present all these quiescent candidates for sovereignty are swathed in the silken shrouds of their second or chrysalis stage of being—that wherein bees are designated nymphs. With heads turned toward the royal apartments, the queenless subjects anxiously await the moment which is to supply their craving for a sovereign. They wait long, but at length, most welcome spectacle! a royal lady, perfect in the maturity of her full proportions, issues from one of the royal chambers. A loud andjoyful hum proclaims her queen, and her subjects are crowding round to pay their ready homage—when, lo! from another of the state apartments, arrived, like herself, at bee's and queen's estate, and nearly at the self-same moment, comes forth a second claimant to the royal honours. The rivals catch a glimpse of each other, exchange a glance of angry defiance, then, while the crowd falls back to permit their meeting, rush like she-dragons on one another. Head to head, chest to chest, they strive and grapple, and each has only, in dragon style, to bend her tail and fix her venomed dart, and both will fall victims to each other's stings. But no! at this moment, as if seized simultaneously with panic

B

fear, they part and recede from the deadly and too equal strife.

"The spectators have hitherto been looking on, inactive, though not mute, having kept up a ceaseless hum; but now that the royal combatants give way and separate, that hum increases to a perfect uproar, and a few individuals, darting from the crowd, dare to seize upon the retreating queens, and stay their flight,—to hang even on their "recreant limbs," and hold them back from further retreat, as well as from advance. But, see! as if their failing spirits were chafed into new fury by the indignity thus offered, they burst from their subjects' hold, and rush back to the encounter. Again the issue hangs suspended, but not for long; for now, one of the queenly combatants, more powerful or more skilful than her rival, rises above her, seizes one of her scanty wings, and inflicts on her undefended body a mortal sting. She withdraws her barbed weapon, while her wounded competitor falls down, struggles and expires.

"The conqueror's victory is complete; what, however, does she next? She approaches rapidly to the nearest of the royal chambers, with vindictive fury tears from its entrance the silken tapestry by which it is partially defended, and now thrusts her poisoned dart into its hapless occupant, and thus, one after another, she destroys the remaining four.

"While the ferocious queen is thus employed, what is the behaviour of her surrounding subjects? Do they submit tamely to the extinction of the royal race ?—Tes, and they do more; for though they themselves lay not a sting on the sacred persons of the young princesses, they aid the cruel queen in the completion of her butchery; for no sooner does she quit each scene of her successive assassinations, than, dragging from the chamber the body she has left, they hasten to hide it from her view.

"The scene above depicted reads exceedingly tragical, and with such materials for a play upon the passions, 'well may bees have been made to figure as dramatis persona, and have had allotted to them a whole play to themselves.' Of this play we know nothing, except that it was written in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, who might truly have been the author's heroine; she, before whom, to allude to a

[merged small][ocr errors]

successor, was, in her own words, 'to pin up her windingsheet before her.'

"* * * » n sometimes happen that, spite of the surplus of royal nymphs, a hive is unexpectedly bereft of its sovereign when there is no successor to supply her place. How then do the people act? Why, in such a strait they make a queen.

"For the space of several hours grief and consternation prevail, after which the mourning, but not despairing, people bestir themselves to supply her place. Let us watch their proceedings. Surely they are bereft not only of their sovereign but of their senses, and in a fit of frenzy are making havoc in the streets of this well-ordered city! Several parties are here and there attacking the six-sided houses, hastily pulling down their waxen walls, regardless of the young that lie cradled therein; out of perhaps four or five of these unhappy nurslings, all but one are sacrificed by those who had heretofore been their careful nurses; but for this one, still in its infant or grub estate, a changed and brilliant destiny is in store. Save for the unlooked-for accident which has left the throne without an occupant, this low-born bee would have left her narrowed cell in form and colour like her working sisterhood; but now, her body will be expanded, her colours brightened, her wings and her instinctive virtues alone curtailed.

"The first process of her manufacture is begun by the destruction going on around her. Her narrow lodging has been converted into a spacious chamber, allowing scope for her bodily expansion, and soon will numerous nurses be busy cramming her with that nutritious, stimulating substance, called ' royal-jelly.' Thence, in due season, in about ten days or thereabouts, out will come an artificial sovereign, in all respects as good as ever issued from a royal egg." And now having concluded the above poetical and almost fabulously singular narrative, let us turn to a poetical yet really much more prosaic picture of Bee TO A BEE.

Thou wert out betimes, thou busy, busy Bee!
As abroad I took my early way,
Before the cow from her resting-place
Had risen up and left her trace

On the meadow, with dew so grey,
Saw I thee, thou busy, busy Bee.

Thou wert working late, thou busy, busy Bee!
After the fall of the Cistus flower;
When the Primrose of evening was ready to burst,
I heard thee last as I saw thee first;
In the silence of the evening hour,
Heard I thee, thou busy, busy Bee.

Thou art a miser, thou busy, busy Bee!
Late and early at employ;
Still on thy golden stores intent,
Thy summer in heaping and hoarding is spent
What thy winter will never enjoy;
Wise lesson this for me, thou busy, busy Bee!

Little dost thou think, thou busy, busy Bee!
What is the end of thy toil.
When the latest flowers of the ivy are gone,
And all thy work for the year is done,
Thy master comes for the spoil:
Woe then for thee, thou busy, busy Bee!

Southet.

ANTIQUARIAN MONTH. May was called by our Saxon ancestors Tri-milki, because in that time they began to milk their kine three times in the day.

Every year on this day met the folktnote of our Saxon ancestors—the annual parliament, as it is explained by Spelman, or convention of the bishops, thanes, aldermen, and freemen, in which the laymen having first sworn to defend one another, and conjointly with the king maintain the laws of the realm, then proceeded to consult about the common safety.

The modern name of the month is from the Latin Maius, or Majus, which itself has been variously derived, and occasioned much dispute, as Macrobius tells us, amongst the ANTIQUAEIAH MONTH.

245 Roman writers. According to one account, it was called Majus, from Majores, the elders, just as the month of June had its name from Juniores, the younger, these appellations having been respectively given in honour of the two great masses into which Romulus had divided the Roman people, —namely, the elders and the juniors,—the one being appointed to maintain the republic by their counsels, and the other by their arms. Cincius, however, imagines that the name was derived from Maia, whom he calls the wife of Vulcan, while Piso contends that the goddess in question was called Majesta, and not Maia, whom others call the mother of Mercury. Some again derive it from Jupiter, called, Majus, from his majesty; and not a few have maintained that the Maia, to whom sacrifices were made in May, was the earth, so named from its magnitude, as in the sacred rites she is called Mater Magna, the Great Mother. The plain inference from all these augmentary suppositions is, that neither Varro, nor Cincius, nor Macrobius, nor any of the authors cited by him, knew a jot more of the matter than ourselves.

The festival of May-day has existed in this country, though its form has often changed, from the earliest times: and we find abundant traces of it both in our poets and old chroniclers. Toilet imagines that it originally came from our Gothic ancestors; and certainly, if that is to be taken for a proof, the Swedes and Goths welcomed the first of May with songs and dance, and many rustic sports; but there is only a general, not a particular, likeness between our May-day festivities and those of our Gothic ancestors. Others again have sought for the origin of our customs in the Floralia, or rather in the Maiuma of the Romans, which were established at a later period under the Emperor Claudius, and differed perhaps but little from the former, except in being more decent.

But though it may at first seem probable that our Maygames may have come immediately from the Floralia, or Maiuma of the Romans, there can be little question that their final origin must be sought in other countries, and far remoter periods. Maurice says, and I have no doubt truly, that our May-day festival is but a repetition of the phallic festivals of India and Egypt, which in those countries took

« AnteriorContinuar »