The mysteries of the bee reminded Hardy that nature and space were eternal: we can approach and admire, but never fully understand…
“THE Weatherbury bees were late in their swarming this year. It was in the latter part of June, and the day after the interview with Troy in the hayfield, that Bathsheba was standing in her garden, watching a swarm in the air and guessing their probable settling place. Not only were they late this year, but unruly. Sometimes throughout a whole season all the swarms would alight on the lowest attainable bough — such as part of a currant-bush or espalier apple- tree; next year they would, with just the same unanimity, make straight off to the uppermost member of some tall, gaunt costard, or quarrender, and there defy all invaders who did not come armed with ladders and staves to take them.
This was the case at present. Bathsheba’s eyes, shaded by one hand, were following the ascending multitude against the unexplorable stretch of blue till they ultimately halted by one of the unwieldy trees spoken of. A process somewhat analogous to that of alleged formations of the universe, time and times ago, was observable. The bustling swarm had swept the sky in a scattered and uniform haze, which now thickened to a nebulous centre: this glided on to a bough and grew still denser, till it formed a solid black spot upon the light.”
Thomas Hardy, ‘Far From the Madding Crowd‘, Chapter 27
One sunny afternoon a few years back I was out on a bike ride with a couple of friends from the GBMCC. We went tazzing merrily round Derbyshire and Staffordshire, stopping off at a rustic crafts centre for tea and cakes. Simon remarked that it was too warm and proceeded to pull down his leather trousers, revealing a pair of baggy blue shorts.
After we had finished our snack he adjusted his dress and picked up his crash helmet ready to get back on the road. But before putting it on, he glanced inside and paused. ‘Good job I spotted that one’ he said, gently brushing out a dark-brown bee. The insect crawled unsteadily around for a few seconds before drifting off into the sky.
Only later that day did I remember the concert I had attended several years earlier, at which a small band of players (recorder, lute, and viol) had performed some John Dowland songs, including his poignant setting of ‘A Farewell to Arms’.
A Farewell to Arms
HIS golden locks Time hath to silver turn’d;
O Time too swift, O swiftness never ceasing!
His youth ’gainst time and age hath ever spurn’d,
But spurn’d in vain; youth waneth by increasing:
Beauty, strength, youth, are flowers but fading seen;
Duty, faith, love, are roots, and ever green.
His helmet now shall make a hive for bees;
And, lovers’ sonnets turn’d to holy psalms,
A man-at-arms must now serve on his knees,
And feed on prayers, which are Age his alms:
But though from court to cottage he depart,
His Saint is sure of his unspotted heart.
And when he saddest sits in homely cell,
He’ll teach his swains this carol for a song,—
‘Blest be the hearts that wish my sovereign well,
Curst be the souls that think her any wrong.’
Goddess, allow this agèd man his right
To be your beadsman now that was your knight.
George Peele, 1556-96
In 2016, China exported 32,000 tonnes of Imidacloprid …
A few of the Manchester Bee sculptures:
“Whether we consider the gathering of pollen by bees and the subsequent production of honey within a hive, or the communal gathering of initiatic wisdom by the ancients at Eleusis, we observe a powerful symbol for the distillation of spiritual energy. Partaking of this energy is transformative, leading to psychological and spiritual regeneration. The goddess, the priestess, and their sister the bee unite as emblems for this vital human activity—one that leaves us pure, ever-new, and reborn.”
The Eleusinian Mysteries and the Bee, Julie Sanchez-Parodi, S.R.C.