A Place for the Bees

Virgil, Georgics (Book IV: 8-32)

audioear pictureHear the author read this poem (in RealAudio)

audioear pictureHear the author read the original Latin version (in RealAudio)

First of all, find a protected place for the bees
To make their home, a place that's safe from the wind
That might prevent them from getting back with their food
And safe from the sheep or the wanton kids that trample
The flowers down, or the wandering heifer shaking
The dew from the grass and bruising the rising blades.
Protect the rich stalls of their honeycombs from the scaly
Shiny-backed lizard, and from the bee-eater and other
Birds of the sort, and Procne, whose bloody hands
Have left their signs upon her crimson breast.
Any of these can devastate the bees,
Catching them in their mouths to carry them home
As delicacies to feed to their cruel children.

And there should be a limpid spring nearby,
Or a moss-edged pool, or else a little brook,
Almost unseen, making its way through the grass,
And a big palm tree or oleaster shading
The vestibule of the place where the bees have settled,
So when the kings of the hive lead the swarm forth
In the welcoming season, and glad to be free at last,
The youthful bees are capering and playing,
There'll be a stream bank or a pond bank there,
Where they can escape the unaccustomed heat
And where the leaves of a tree can shelter them.
And whether it's pools or running streams, there must
Be willow shoots and stones disposed across,
As resting places for them to spread their wings
And dry them in the sun, if any had happened
To linger and were caught in a sudden shower,
Or the wind had suddenly blown them into the water.
And there should be sweet blooming marjoram near,
And the odor of serpylla spreading far,
And fragrant savory, and violets
Drinking from the trickling spring or stream.

David Ferry's The Georgics of Virgil will be published in May by Farrar, Straus & Giroux. Ferry received the Landon Translation Award for The Epistles of Horace (2001).
Presented by

Google Street View, Transformed Into a Tiny Planet

A 360-degree tour of our world, made entirely from Google's panoramas

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Google Street View, Transformed Into a Tiny Planet

A 360-degree tour of our world, made entirely from Google's panoramas

Video

The 86-Year-Old Farmer Who Won't Quit

A filmmaker returns to his hometown to profile the patriarch of a family farm

Video

Riding Unicycles in a Cave

"If you fall down and break your leg, there's no way out."

Video

Carrot: A Pitch-Perfect Satire of Tech

"It's not just a vegetable. It's what a vegetable should be."

Video

The Benefits of Living Alone on a Mountain

"You really have to love solitary time by yourself."

More in Entertainment

More back issues, Sept 1995 to present.

Just In