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The Degenerate Bees Post by :eeconsults Category :Poems Author :John Gay Date :May 2011 Read :3581

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The Degenerate Bees

(_To Dean Swift._)

Though courts the practice disallow,
I ne'er a friend will disavow:
It may be very wrong to know him,
And very prudent to forego him;
'Tis said that prudence changes friends
Oft as it suits one's private ends.
Ah, Dean! and you have many foes,
Behind, before, beneath your nose,
And fellows very high in station.
Of high and low denomination,
Who dread you with a deadly spite
For what you speak and what you write,--
Where, between satire and your wit,
They feel themselves most sorely bit.
Ah! can a dunce in church or state
So overflow with froth and hate?
And can a scribbling crew so spurt
On Pope and Swift, who stand unhurt?

Ah! can it be, a mighty race
(For giants may hold power and place)
Can scandals raise and libels pen
To prove that they are worthy men?
They suffered from your pen, 'tis true,
Therefore you have from them your due.
You have no friends--be it understood
Except myself--and wise and good.
To lay the matter on the table,
And give it point, I'll tell a fable.

A bee, who greedy was of gain,
But wanted parts him to maintain,
Seeing small rogues by great ones thrive,
Corruption sowed throughout the hive.
And as he rose in power and place
Importance settled on his face;
All conscience found with him discredit,
But impudence the loudest--merit:
Wealth claimed distinction and found grace,
But poverty was ever base.
Right, law, and industry gave way
Where'er his selfish rule had sway;
And so corruption seized the swarm,
Who plundered underneath his arm.
Thus he harangued: "Whilst vulgar souls
Waste life in low mechanic holes,
Let us scorn drudgery: the drone
And wasp, whose elegance we own,
Like gentlemen sport in the rays
Of sunbeams on all summer days;
It were not fitting they should moil,--
They live upon their neighbour's toil."

A bee, with indignation warm,
Stepped forth from the applauding swarm:

"The laws our native hives protect,
And for the laws bees hold respect.
I do not mind your frown; I cry--
Bees live by honest industry.
'Twas toil and honest gain to thrive,
Which gave us an ancestral hive,
Which gave us our time-honoured dome,
Bequeathed with store of honeycomb.
Pursue the self-same road to fame
By which your fathers won their name:
But know the road you are pursuing
Will lead you to the brink of ruin."

He spoke; but he was only hissed,
And from his cell forthwith dismissed.
With him* two other friends resigned,
Indignant at the Apian mind.
"These drones, who now oppress the State,
Proclaim our virtue by their hate,"
The exile said; "our honest zeal
Will serve again the common weal;
And we, be sure, shall be replaced,
When they shall from this hive be chased."

* Lords Oxford and Bolingbroke, in 1714, are intended.

(The end)
John Gay's poem: Degenerate Bees

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