The International Folk-Lore Congress of the World's Columbian Exposition, Chicago, July, 1893/Telling the Bees




Out of the house where the slumberer lay
Grandfather came one summer day;
And under the pleasant orchard trees
He spake this-wise to the murmuring bees;
"The clover-bloom that kissed her feet
And the posie-bed where she used to play
Have honey store, but none so sweet
As ere our little one went away,
O bees, sing soft, and, bees, sing low;
For she is gone who loved you so."

A wonder fell on the listening bees
Under those pleasant orchard trees,
And in their toil that summer day
Ever their murmuring seemed to say;
"Child, child, the grass is cool.
And the posies are waking to hear the song
Of the bird that swings by the shaded pool,
"Waiting for one that tarrieth long."
'Twas so they called to the little one then.
As if to call her back' again.

O gentle bees, I have come to say
That grandfather fell to sleep to-day.
And we know by the smile on grandfather's face.
He has found his dear one's biding place.
So, bees, sing soft, and, bees, sing low.
As over the honey-fields you sweep,—
To the trees a-bloom and the flowers a-blow
Sing of grandfather fast asleep;
And ever beneath these orchard trees
Find cheer and shelter, gentle bees.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

Some of the most charming literature we have in the line of folk-lore has been done by women. Speaking for myself, I am very proud to acknowledge on this occasion, that it was a woman who first interested me in folk-lore, or, more accurately speaking, in folk song, for it was not until I had read the delightful work of Madame the Countess Martinengo-Cesaresco, that I became aware of the vastness and the beauty and fascination of the study to which that charming lady introduced me. It is to a woman that we are indebted for the only compilation of West Indian folk tales; to a woman for several delightful volumes on the ancient charms and the old legends of the Irish; to a woman for our acquaintance with "Myths, Symbols and Magic of the East Africans;" to a woman for the learned and delightful treatise upon "Old Rabbit, the Voodoo,"—in short, it is to women that we are indebted for a very large share of the curious, entertaining and instructive literature, in which all people as intelligent and enterprising as we are delight.

It is largely owing to the perseverance, and patience, and discretion of a woman that there exists and flourishes in Chicago to-day a Folk-Lore Society, and but for the fear of offending the solemnity of this occasion, I should call for three cheers for Mrs. Helen W. Bassett.