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Popular Science Monthly/Volume 85/August 1914/Apiculture in the Time of Virgil

< Popular Science Monthly‎ | Volume 85‎ | August 1914

APICULTURE IN THE TIME OF VIRGIL
By GEORGIA WILLIS READ

THE science of apiculture, as it is understood to-day, is the slow growth of centuries of human observation and investigation. For unnumbered ages it has been a work of interest to man to reclaim these singularly untamable insects from the state ferœ naturæ to that domitæ naturæ, as the legal phrase has it—to render their natures sufficiently tractable to enable man to appropriate to himself the benefits of their toil. Though bees have responded to the process of domestication less readily than almost any other of the forms of wild life which man has subjected to his control—since even to-day, after thousands of years of cultivation, they slip back easily and completely into their aboriginal state when opportunity offers—man's efforts to this end have been unremitting, his interest in this task has never flagged. Who knows but that the missing link or an even more remote progenitor sacked the city of the bees for its rich spoil, and handed down to man the instinct for this conquest? Always within the memory of man, at any rate, as the ancient Romans used the phrase, meaning thereby always within the bounds of tradition, honey has been esteemed as a delicacy for the table, and as a valuable condiment in wine-making. The ancient Egyptians, whose very cities have long since crumbled to dust, prized their swarms of bees, which they kept in earthenware vases much as the natives of Africa and Asia do to-day; while it is by no means uncommon to find in histories of ancient races mention of honey as a dainty and a thing of price.

By the time that Virgil wrote his rambling treatise on bees, on their characteristics and their manners, their habits and their needs, apiculture was recognized as an important branch of husbandry. In Virgil's estimation it ranked apparently with the more universal interests of agriculture, the raising of crops and the care of cattle, since of the four books that he wrote on this group of subjects, one is entirely devoted to the culture of bees. In it he gives with patient, painstaking care, a complete guide to practical beekeeping as it was understood in those days, and adds, one can not help thinking for his own pleasure primarily, countless charming apicultural fancies and fables which he had heard. Though the theories as to the life and habits of bees which were held by the most intelligent men of that age, bear no stamp of that absolute and unimpeachable precision which exact science imparts to any subject, one can but marvel at the frequent correctness of their intuitions and the general propriety of their observations, passing over with uncensorious leniency the startling inaccuracy of certain of their conclusions.

Maeterlinck, in that remarkable life of the bee in which he weaves with threads of purest fact such a marvellous woof of poetry, passes poor Virgil's Georgic by in impatient haste as giving merely the legend of the bee. "All that we can glean therefrom, which indeed is exceedingly little," he says summarily, as he passes on to other fields. Without doubt, his conclusion is just. Virgil sang in an age whose ignorance was vast, whose myths were many, and to one who searches for knowledge from the vantage ground of to-day his poem is barren soil. But to the student of human attainment, of man's gradual triumph in wringing from the natural world the basic truths of science, the result is otherwise.

We are, perhaps, too prone to forget that all knowledge comes to us as a long-accumulated heritage in which we enjoy a life interest, in return for which, should we so desire, we may strive to add some trifle to the principal sum. The world grows in the grace of knowledge, albeit slowly; it moves at a glacier's pace, leaving stranded far behind in the trail of its moraine even those who have been great in their day. As Renan says,

Descartes would be delighted if he could read some trivial work on natural philosophy and cosmography written in the present day. The fourth form schoolboy of our age is acquainted with truths to know which Archimedes would have laid down his life.

This is true in apiculture, as in any other branch of natural science. As Langstroth, "the father of American apiculture," declares,

Any intelligent cultivator to-day may, with an observation hive and the use of movable frames, in a single season verify for himself the discoveries which have been made only by the accumulated toil of many observers for more than two thousand years.

To him who, laboring under these advantages, looks backward to learn how much about bees the ancients were able to ascertain from the limited means of investigation at their command, Virgil's work is rich in pleasant surprises and astounding revelations. Without microscopes, which enable us to examine perfectly the minutest organ of the bee, they yet knew that the worker bees were females (as the gender of the pronouns and adjectives which refer to them in Virgil's poem shows us conclusively), and that they never bore any young. Without movable frames, which permit the beekeeper of to-day to examine the interior of the hive at will, they nevertheless had a very clear understanding of the different functions of the bees, and of the social life of the swarm. If Virgil were to walk through a well-kept apiary of to-day, examining its regular rows of neatly painted, dovetailed hives which take the place of the "leaky, draughty" basket-work skeps with which he was familiar, he would find cause for amazement. In his time, the bee-keeper carried for his protection in the apiary an ineffective brazier of coals; to-day, when we lift the lid from a hive, we quell the turbulent swarm within by a few puffs from a long-nosed, bellows-fitted smoker. Instead of encountering an irregular mass of unequal, crooked pieces of honeycomb built firmly to the sides and bottom of the skep, and affording no chance whatever for further examination unless cut ruthlessly from their foundations, in which case the flowing honey from the pierced cells would drown many of the swarm, we now find either eight or ten oblong wooden frames, each enclosing a straight sheet of hexagonal-celled honeycomb. Upon the surfaces of these combs the bees live, and in their cells they store the honey and raise the young bees. Thus at a moment's notice, and without in the least disturbing any function of the swarm, we can study the whole economy of the hive, whereas, hampered both by his lack of appliances and by the medieval and impracticable interior of the hive, Virgil must either have suffocated the swarm with acrid fumes in order to subdue it or have drowned it in the flowing honey of the broken combs.

Though he knew much about the life of the swarm, and understood well the different labors into which the toil of the hive is divided, his knowledge was thus of necessity gained largely by inference, without the aid of ocular proof. He might see the sentinels stationed at the entrance of the hive to intercept any robbers or bewildered strangers who might try to enter; he might also see the homecoming bees alighting at the threshold, pausing an instant to balance themselves, then darting into the hive. But he could never follow upon their track, as we can, to see them storing their loads of nectar in the half-filled cells, or placing in the compartments reserved for the purpose the tiny pellets of bright colored pollen, carried home in the little pouches upon their thighs.

Nor could he watch the deeper interests of the hive unfold themselves. The queen, attended by her little retinue of caretakers, goes about the combs performing her one duty of laying her eggs, one in the bottom of each empty cell, the male eggs in the drone cells, the female in the worker cells. One cohort of workers cares for the brood, supplying royal jelly for the nourishment of the embryo queens, if it be the swarming season; and feeding the tiny milky worker and drone grubs which have hatched from the three-day old eggs. Such of these grubs as have reached the proper age are sealed over with a porous capping under which they grow and change form until about the twenty-first day from the laying of the eggs, when the perfect, newborn bees, still gray and fuzzy, chew the waxen coverlets from their cells and traverse with slow, clinging crawl the comb about them. Other workers keep the hive tidy by carrying out the bits of wax that have dropped to the floor, or line with propolis the slight cracks between the warping boards. Others again seal over such honey as has been properly ripened, while everywhere through the hive are groups of drones, "sitting idle at the banquets of another."

These things he could never see; for him to view the life of the swarm while it was being lived was impossible. He might, by tearing it to pieces, see where and perhaps how it had been, but to do so he must use such violence as to cause a temporary if not a lasting cessation of the functions of the swarm. Yet in spite of the disadvantages under which he labored, a fairly large proportion of the theories which he advances are borne out by the knowledge of to-day. We could, as is only to be expected, set him right about numerous facts in the life of the bee, but of its general habits we could teach him but little, and of its temperament even less.

It is natural, indeed, that his reading of the nature of the bee should more nearly approximate our own, than that his theories as to the facts of its life and the most successful methods of treating it, should tally with those of the present day. For the character of the bee, to all practical purposes, is the same to-day that it has always been; neither new crosses in breeding nor the accumulative gentling effect of centuries of cultivation seems to have modified its disposition, which is to be learned now, as always, by personal observation. The main facts of its life, on the other hand, and consequently the most rational and therefore the most successful methods of treatment, have been very definitely determined by modern scientific investigation.

We know, for instance, as Swammerdam discovered with the aid of his microscope in the seventeenth century, that the "king bee" is not a king, as Virgil believed, but a queen, the only perfect female of the swarm, who gives birth to a constant stream of workers and drones, which keeps the swarm undiminished though the old bees are dying off continually. We know too that the life of the individual bee, far from being "seldom prolonged beyond the seventh summer," as Virgil thought, is often exhausted by hard work during the honey-flow in six or eight weeks, and probably seldom lasts longer, even under favorable circumstances, than six or eight months, the queen being the single exception to this rule. She sometimes lives three or four years, but is seldom sufficiently prolific to keep up the strength of the swarm properly after her second or third year.

Virgil's theory that two colonies often came forth to battle with each other is erroneous; he must have seen two swarms that happened to leave their hives simultaneously and mingled in the air, as not infrequently happens in the height of the swarming season. He may have chanced to see the queens of the two swarms fighting, a by no means necessary or even usual consequence of this chance coming together. He tells us, too,

To the old falls the care of the towns,
And the guarding of the combs, and the fashioning of the cunningly wrought homes.
The younger ones return wearied late at night,
Their legs loaded with thyme; they feed on the wild strawberries,
The blue-gray willows, the cinnamon, the glowing saffron-flower,
The rich linden-tree, and the iron-colored hyacinth.

Nowadays we know that, broadly speaking, it is just the other way—that the older bees gather the nectar, propolis and pollen, and the younger ones stay within the hive to feed the brood and perform there the other necessary duties. His naïve, yet not unnatural supposition that at nightfall the bees laid themselves to rest in the cells of the honey-comb, whereupon sleep seized their weary frames, we know to be unfounded. Whenever it is too chilly or too windy for them to fly out, they may be seen clustering over the surfaces of the combs, in order to incubate the unhatched brood and to enjoy the comfortable sensation of the animal heat thus generated. Moreover, any one who is familiar with the interior of the hive knows that in summer every cell in every comb is needed in a fairly strong colony for storing the incoming harvest and for raising the young bees, while during the height of the honey-flow it is questionable whether the bees can be said to sleep at all. Many beekeepers believe that unless the nights are so cold as to chill them, they work unceasingly from dusk to dawn, as well as from dawn to dusk, during this brief period.

We can see, by the brighter light of modern knowledge, how Virgil was wrong in these and in many smaller particulars, how he incorporated into his work the errors that were prevalent in his day, and endorsed the methods then in vogue, superstitious and unavailing as they too often were. But if he sometimes went astray as to his facts, traveling, as he did, over a country with but few landmarks to guide him, he retrieved himself in other fields. We approach the bees armed with facts that explain their habits and throw light upon their moods, but he was forced to solve his problem just the other way. He must observe their disposition and their ways, and then deduce his facts as best he could. It follows as a matter of course that he should speak more wisely of the things that he saw for himself than of those that he knew only by inference.

The somewhat unusual habits of the bees he read with remarkable insight. But what he understood best of all about these strange little insects, perhaps because in contemplating them he brought to bear upon them the subtle comprehension that is born of sympathy, was their character, their temperament. In this respect he speaks as a master, and as one whose teaching the shadow of years has not tarnished. Here his perceptions winged themselves to their goal as swiftly and as unerringly as the eager bees themselves fly to the hive with each load of nectar when every hour of the summer's day warns them that the golden harvest time is fleeting. He knew that work made the bees cheerful, and that sunny weather cheered their hearts; that discouragement did but make them work the harder, and that death itself, dreaded instinctively by every animate thing, was to them, when set against the common welfare, a thing of naught.

Half playfully, half affectionately, yet wholly respectfully withal, he continually likens the race of bees to the race of men.

I will tell you of sights of tiny things to be wondered at,
Great-hearted leaders, the customs of the whole race,
Their passions, tribes, and battles,

he says in his opening paragraph. In the course of his pages, "grandsires of grandsires are numbered," "the hearts of the bees are agitated in war," "the kings turn to the foe great souls in tiny breasts," "sad funeral rites are conducted." Often in the course of the poem he refers to their homes, their dwellings, their waxed realms and rich storehouses, their palaces and cities—a picturesque phraseology which Maeterlinck repeats with great effect.

"Behold," says Virgil, giving us in one long paragraph a far from uncreditable resume of the life and labors of the bee,
Behold, I will now describe the natural traits Which Jupiter himself has given to the bees as a reward For their harmonious humming. . . When they fed the king of the sky in the Dictean cave. They alone have a common offspring, a common building of the city, And spend their lives under powerful laws. They alone know their country and their settled home; Mindful of the coming winter, they endure toil in summer, And put aside for the common advantage what they have gained. Some direct their attention toward the provisions, And by agreement labor in the fields; Others within the home place the nectar of narcissus And the sticky sap from bark for the foundation of the comb, And thence draw downward the tenacious wax; Others raise to maturity the young, the hope of the race; Others ripen the honey, and fill the cells with nectar; To some has fallen by lot the guardianship at the gates. . . . The work seethes, and the sweet-smelling honey is fragrant with thyme. . . . An inborn love of harvesting urges on the Cecropian bee, Each in his own function. . . . There is one time of toil, one rest from work, for all. In the morning they rush out from the gates; there is no delay; Again when evening has warned them to cease From feeding in the fields, they seek their dwellings,

They refresh themselves; a humming sound arises,
They sing about the entrances and the thresholds. ...
Nor do they retire very far from the hive when rain threatens,
Nor trust to the sky when the east winds begin to blow,
But all around under the walls of the city,
They safely fetch water and venture upon short expeditions. ...
You will wonder indeed at this custom of the bees,
That they do not idly relax their bodies in love,
Or bring forth offspring with labor;
Instead they gathered their sons
From the leaves and the fragrant herbs,
They themselves supply a king and little subjects
And refashion their palaces and waxen realms.
Often, too, in wandering over the rough, flinty rocks
They have worn away their wings,
And voluntarily given up their lives under their burden.
Such is their love of flowers and their glory in making honey!
Therefore, though the limit of brief life overtakes them,
Yet the race remains immortal,
And the fortune of the home endures through many years. ...
Furthermore, not Egypt, nor great Lydia, nor the people of the Parthians,
Nor even the Median Hydaspes, so honor their king.
While he is unharmed, all are of one mind;
If he is lost, they break their faith. ...
They surround him with incessant hummings, and attend him
In great numbers, and expose their bodies in war,
Seeking a beautiful death through their wounds.

(It is true that bees have this feeling for the queen, understanding that without her there is no hope for the future prosperity, or even existence, of the swarm.) From these signs, Virgil says in conclusion, some have maintained that the bee has a part of the divine intelligence and that it too, in common with flocks, herds, men, and all the race of beasts, has drawn in at birth its tiny vital spark from the god that penetrates the earth and the sea and the profound skies—"esse apibus partem divinæ mentis et haustus ætherios."

Again he tells:

The more they are exhausted, the more zealously all will set about
To repair the ruin of the fallen family
To fill the cells and to build storehouses for the honey,

as indeed they will. He also says, when speaking of an old Corycian who made a paradise for himself out of a few waste acres by setting out flowers and fruits and esculent plants to grow among the brambles,

He therefore was the first to abound in prolific bees and numerous swarms,
And to force the foaming honey from the pressed combs.
He had linden-trees and many pine trees;
With just so many blossoms as each tree
Was decked in in the spring,
Just so many ripe fruits it held in autumn.

It does not seem to be forcing the meaning of this passage to infer from it that Virgil had some knowledge of the valuable services of bees in fertilizing plants of all kinds.

To have learned all that he tells us about bees, Virgil must have mastered the subject of apiculture as it was understood in his time. That he gained his information at first hand, or at least verified it by personal observation, seems indubitable. For here and there all through his work are convincing bits of description, sometimes merely felicitous phrases, that recall the life of the hive forcibly to any one familiar with it. He says

As for what is left when, the golden sun has put winter to flight
Beneath the earth, and has revealed the sky with summer light,
Immediately they (the bees) wander over all the glades and forests,
And rifle the bright-hued flowers, and lightly-moving,
Drink from the surfaces of the streams.
From this time, joyful from I know not what delight,
They cherish their family and their home,
And make the ripened honey.

This could not fail to paint vividly for any beekeeper the yearly awakening of the bees, when, shaking off the torpor of winter, they prepare with eagerness for the advent of summer, that fraction of the year in which alone they lead a full and active life. His description of the listlessness and apathy of bees which are diseased at once suggests the appearance of a colony which is suffering from the ravages of bacillus alvei, or foul brood, the terrible, almost pestilential malady of the apiary. He says

But indeed life has brought our misfortunes to the bees;
If their bodies shall droop with a sad disease . . .
The sick are of a different color;
A dreadful leanness marks their appearance;
They carry forth from the dwellings those bereft of life,
And conduct sad funeral rites;
Or clinging together by the feet, hang at the thresholds,
Or delay within their house, and are listless with hunger
And inactive from the cold which they have caught.

Again he says, when speaking of the life of the bees during the harvest season, "the work seethes, and the sweet-smelling honey is fragrant with thyme." The work does seethe; his phrase exactly describes the abnormal, all-pervading activity of the swarm during the honey-flow. Often at that time we can tell by the delicate aroma, one might almost say the bouquet, of the honey, from what kind of flowers it is being made. To-day only that of the mountain sage resembles in fragrance and flavor the honey of the ancients which was made from thyme, of which the fabled honey of Hymettus was the finest type.

Interspersed throughout Virgil's discourse are numerous precepts for the guidance of the apiculturist, some of them still as sound as can be devised, others again being incomplete or obsolete. He knew that certain things conduced to the prosperity of the bees, and therefore to the profit of the owner. The requisite points of a suitable situation for an apiary, a highly important factor in successful beekeeping, he covers very well. A dry, well-drained slope, shelter from the wind, pools of flowing water, water being essential in raising the brood, and protection from the heat of the sun, were necessities upon which he insisted. "Do not trust them to a deep swamp," he cautioned his disciples, "nor where the hollow rocks resound when struck, and the echo of the voice rebounds."

Let there be flowing fountains and pools bright with moss,
So that when the new kings lead out the swarms
And the young bees, released from the honey-combs, sport about,
The neighboring bank may invite them to withdraw from the heat,
And the tree in their way shelter them with its leafy hospitality.
Across the center of the stream, whether it pauses here or flows swiftly,
Place willows athwart, and lay in large rocks,
That they may alight on frequent bridges,
And open their wings to the summer sun,
If perchance the east wind has scattered the laggards
Or plunged them headlong into the stream.

He mentions also the need of having plenty of pasturage, though this he proposes to provide by setting out suitable plants and shrubs:

Let him who makes such things his care bring thyme and pine trees
From the lofty mountains, and plant them far and wide about the dwellings;
Let him bruise his hands with hard toil; let him set out these shrubs
And irrigate them with friendly showers—

while to-day, when bees are kept in any numbers, a location must be chosen near great fields of some honey-yielding plant, such as clover or buckwheat.

He appeared to know that with bees, as with every other form of life, the breed must be kept up from the best stock;

But when you have recalled both leaders (kings) from the battle,
Give to death him who seems inferior, lest he be a hindrance;
Permit the better one to reign in the empty halls.
For there are two kinds; the one shining with scales of gold,
Distinguished both by his shape and by his ruddy, golden hue.
The other is terrible with sloth.
As the figures of the two kings, so are the bodies of their peoples.
For the one kind is horribly ugly; . . . while the others
Shine and glitter, aglow with gold,
And their bodies are marked with even bands.
This is the better breed; from this source at the proper season
You may extract the dulcet honey from the combs.

To-day, after a lapse of nearly two thousand years, the Italian breed remains distinct, its special characteristic being its superiority over all other breeds in gathering honey; the particular marking of its best strain is still the glistening, golden color of the three largest of the rings of horny substance that encase the body of the bee. Even now we know no better rule to follow in requeening an apiary than to select for the purpose the offspring of the most beautiful and the most efficient queens at our command.

Again he tells us:

When the inconstant swarms fly about and sport in the air,
Condemn their hives, and leave their cold dwellings,
You should restrain their unsettled minds from this vain play.
Nor is it a great task to control them;
Remove the wings of the king; while he remains behind
None of the bees will dare to follow the path through the air,
Or to tear up the standard from the camp.

In the spring bees are sometimes guilty of this "vain play," or swarming out, as it is called now-a-days, when feeling that summer is unduly delayed and that their store of honey has dwindled distressingly, they leave their hive, only to die of hunger or cold unless rescued by the apiarist. The point of interest here, however, is that one of the most approved of the modern methods of controlling the swarming impulse of the bees, is to clip the wings of the queen on one side, thus preventing her from flying away with the swarm and so necessitating its return to the hive, since, as Virgil knew, the bees will not desert the queen. Though he understood this principle which has become so important in the treatment of swarming, his method of making a swarm settle is, oddly enough, obsolete. We no longer beat the cymbals, as he directed, or sprinkle bruised herbs upon the ground to cause the bees to cluster and alight.

In view of the fact that artificial feeding is a very important factor in modern beekeeping, it is interesting to note that Virgil speaks of this process. Now-a-days the intelligent beekeeper feeds his bees not only to keep them from starving in case their stores run low; he also supplies them with trays of sugar syrup in the spring to stimulate them to raise broods sooner than they would otherwise do, so that they may be ready in large numbers to gather the harvest as soon as it comes. Virgil suggested to his followers that they should introduce honey into the hives by means of hollow reeds.

He understood remarkably well, in the main, what was necessary for the comfort and tranquillity of the bees. He knew that they needed constant sunshine to keep in a healthy condition, and that it was but poor economy to stint their food supply by taking too much honey from the hive. He thought that their homes should be kept in such neat and tidy shape as would make it easiest for them to protect themselves from their enemies. "Who will hesitate," he asks, "to fumigate with thyme and to cut away the empty comb?" He gives, in two divisions, a list of those apicultural pests whose depredations the beekeeper should try to prevent, or at least to control. Among the minor dangers that threaten bees in the form of insects or small animals that have a taste for honey or that eat the bees themselves, he mentions swallows, bee-martins, newts, lizards, hornets, and spiders. When one considers the number of bees in a single colony, however,—upwards of ten thousand in the winter and several times as many in the summer—one can easily see that the combined losses from these sources are insignificant.

He mentions also the bee-moth, "shunning the light;" an accurate description, since its custom is to remain hidden during the day. It does not attempt to enter the hive until dusk, when the bees can not see to attack it. This moth is a really dangerous enemy, being able to harass seriously a strong colony, and often to destroy entirely one that has lost its queen. As Langstroth says of it:

The bee-moth has for thousands of years supported itself on the labors of the bee, and there is no reason to suppose that it will ever become exterminated.

It is rather curious that Virgil nowhere makes any mention of the bee-louse, which, to-day at least, is a source of considerable trouble to the beekeepers of Italy, although in this country it is almost unknown.

His description of that disease of the bees already referred to—so serious a scourge as to make it one of the chief dangers that threaten them—completes his list. For there is very little reason to doubt that this disease of which he speaks is the same as that now known as foul brood, or else closely analogous to it. This is a highly contagious disease, attacking first the brood, which decays instead of hatching; the bees also become infected, and presently die. This malady was doubtless known to apiculturists as long ago as Virgil's time; Aristotle, in his "History of Animals," describes it briefly but in no doubtful terms. Even to-day it is a justly dreaded enemy to apicultural prosperity. It is scarcely to be wondered at that, when we have not yet devised a very satisfactory method of dealing with it, Virgil's remedies should be of no avail. To stamp it out, its spores and bacilli must be destroyed by fire or some other equally efficient agent. His directions as to the various herbs steeped in liquids, and the roots boiled in wine, which were to be fed to the bees to cure this fell disease, were worthless. This treatment, like certain precautions that he advises taking for the welfare of the bees, such as being careful to cut down all the yew-trees near the beeyard, and never to burn red crabs in the fire, could not have been of the slightest use save perchance to afford to the zealous beekeeper of those times, who conscientiously followed these instructions, the salutary sensations that follow duty done.

Unwittingly he sometimes directed his disciples wrong; yet he labored faithfully in their service, nursing his didactic impulse carefully until he had given them, as well as he was able, an insight into the life of their pets. This store of sterner precepts conscientiously discharged, he turns most willingly to those of mythological suggestion, proceeding to tell his followers how to restock their apiaries, should they chance to lose all their bees. He gives as a practical measure to be followed, yet naming it a tradition withal, the old, old myth of bees springing from dead cattle, "how the tainted life-blood of a dead bullock has often borne bees;"—the same old riddle, "out of the strong came forth sweetness, and out of the eater came forth meat." Virgil says of it:

First a place small and sheltered for this very purpose is chosen;
This they enclose with a low roof of tiles and with walls,
And they add four windows of slanting light toward the four winds.
Then they seek a two-year old bullock, whose horns are just beginning to curve.
His nostrils and his mouth are covered over
Though he struggles greatly, and after he has been slain by blows,
The battered entrails are crushed within the unbroken skin.
Thus they leave him, laid in the enclosure,
And they place under his sides branches of thyme and fresh wild cinnamon.
This is done as soon as the driving zephyrs roughen the waves,
Before the meadows brighten with new colors,
Before the chattering swallow hangs her nest from the beams.
Meanwhile the liquid, warmed in the young frame, heats
And animals of a wonderful kind are to be seen,
Lacking in feet at first, but soon whirring with wings;
They mingle, and more and more take to the thin air,
Until they have burst forth as a storm poured from summer clouds,
Or as arrows from the vibrating bowstring,
When the swift Parthians first begin to fight.

Thereupon he drops easily and contentedly into that vein of poetry that comes so gracefully from him, stringing upon a slender connecting thread the story of the loss and the recovery of Aristæus the shepherd's bees, into which he introduces the whole tale of Orpheus and Eurydice. With him, we accompany Aristæus on his pilgrimage for aid to his mother, a water-nymph, who sits spinning with her maidens of euphonious names, Drymo and Phyllodoce, Clio and Lycorias, Xantho and Beroe, in their translucent, glass-colored chamber in the depths of the sea, while one of their number recounts the "numerous lovers of the gods, from Chaos down." In his company we follow the fortunes of Aristæus to their happy conclusion, when, having obeyed the oracle, he is rewarded by seeing clouds of bees come forth on the ninth day from the bullocks that he has slain, and cluster at the top of a tree, ready to be hived.

Filled the marvelous charm of his closing pages, it is with an effort that we turn to consider the value of his discourse. It is a very captivating field over which he has taken us; apiculture in his time was a picturesque occupation, even when seriously pursued. His picture of it is pleasing, not only as a thing beautiful in itself, but also as affording an interesting contrast to the apiculture of to-day, as enabling us to measure our present growth by an ancient scale. Practical beekeeping is indeed far different now from what it was in those days; apiculture at present shows many new features, and lacks many that distinguished it then. Yet in one respect it remains the same, and, I venture to think, will always do so; that is, in the enthusiasm of the bee-keeper for his bees. Even as Aristæus, we to-day are grateful for our teeming hivefuls With Virgil we cry,

Averter of thieves and birds, protect them.
Let gardens breathing with saffron flowers allure them,
Let the guardianship of Hellespontaic Priapus, with his willow scythe,