Actions and Reactions, by Rudyard Kipling

The Bees and the Flies

A FARMER of the Augustan age
Perused in Virgil’s golden page,
The story of the secret won
From Proteus by Cyrene’s son
How the dank sea-god sowed the swain
Means to restore his hives again
More briefly, how a slaughtered bull
Breeds honey by the bellyful.

The egregious rustic put to death
A bull by stopping of its breath:
Disposed the carcass in a shed
With fragrant herbs and branches spread.
And, having thus performed the charm,
Sat down to wait the promised swarm.

Nor waited long . . . The God of Day
Impartial, quickening with his ray
Evil and good alike, beheld
The carcass — and the carcass swelled!
Big with new birth the belly heaves
Beneath its screen of scented leaves;
Past any doubt, the bull conceives!

The farmer bids men bring more hives
To house the profit that arrives;
Prepares on pan, and key and kettle,
Sweet music that shall make ’em settle;
But when to crown the work he goes,
Gods! What a stink salutes his nose!
Where are the honest toilers?
Where The gravid mistress of their care?
A busy scene, indeed, he sees,
But not a sign or sound of bees.
Worms of the riper grave unhid
By any kindly coffin lid,
Obscene and shameless to the light,
Seethe in insatiate appetite,
Through putrid offal; while above
The hissing blow-fly seeks his love,
Whose offspring, supping where they supt,
Consume corruption twice corrupt.

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Last updated Friday, March 7, 2014 at 21:44