Blockhead and Beehive

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The Blockhead and Beehive. Fable X  (1754) 
by Christopher Smart



The fragrance of the new-mown hay
Paid incense to the god of day;
Who issuing from his eastern gate,
Resplendent rode in all his state,
5Rous'd by the light from soft repose,
Big with the Muse, a Bard arose,
And the fresh garden's still retreat
He measur'd with poetic feet.
The cooling, high, o'er-arching shade,
10By the embracing branches made,
The smooth shorn sod, whose verdant gloss,
 Was check'd with intermingled moss,
Cowslips, like topazes that shine,
Close by the silver serpentine,
15Rude rustics which assert[1] the bow'rs,
Amidst the educated flow'rs.
The lime tree and sweet-scented bay,
(The sole reward of many a lay)
And all the poets of the wing,
20Who sweetly without salary sing,
Attract at once his observation,
Peopling thy wilds, Imagination!
“Sweet nature, who this turf bedews,
 Sweet nature, who's the thrush's muse!
25How she each anxious thought beguiles,
And meets me with ten thousand smiles!
O infinite benignity!
She smiles, but not alone on me;
On hill, on dale, on lake, on lawn,
30Like Celia when her picture's drawn;
Assuming countless charms and airs,
'Till Hayman's[2] matchless art despairs,
Pausing like me he dreads to fall
From the divine original.”
35More had he said—but in there came
A lout—Squire Booby was his name.—
The bard, who at a distant view,
The busy prattling blockhead knew,
Retir'd into a secret nook,
40And thence his observations took.
Vex'd he cou'd find no man to teize,
The squire 'gan chattering to the bees,
And pertly with officious mien,
He thus address'd their humming queen:
45“Madam, be not in any terrors,
I only come t'amend your errors;
My friendship briefly to display,
And put you in a better way.
Cease, Madam, (if I may advise)
50To carry honey on your thighs,
Employ ('tis better, I aver)
Old Grub the fairies coach-maker;
For he who has sufficient art
To make a coach, may make a cart.
55To these you'll yoke some sixteen bees,
Who will dispatch your work with ease;
And come and go, and go and come,
To bring your honey harvest home.—
Ma'm, architecture you're not skill'd in,
60 I don't approve your way of building;
In this there's nothing like design,
Pray learn the use of Gunter's line[3].
I'll serve your Highness at a pinch,
I am a scholar every inch,
65And know each author I lay fist on,
From Archimedes down to Whiston[4].—
Tho' honey making be your trade,
In chemistry you want some aid.—
Pleas'd with your work, altho' you sing,
70You're not quite right—'tis not the thing
Myself wou'd gladly be an actor,
To help the honey manufacture.—
I hear for war you are preparing,
Which I should like to have a share in;
75Yet tho' the enemy be landing,
“'Tis wrong to keep an army standing.—
If you'll ensure me from the laws,
I'll write a pamphlet in your cause.—
I vow I am concern'd to see
80Your want of state—œconomy.
Of nothing living I pronounce ill,
But I don't like your privy-council.”
There is, I know, a certain bee,
(Wou'd he was from the ministry)
85Which certain bee, if rightly known,
Wou'd prove no better than a drone;
There are (but I shall name no names,
I never love to kindle flames)
A pack of rogues with crimes grown callous,
90Who greatly wou'd adorn the gallows,;
That with the wasps, for paltry gold,
A secret correspondence hold,
Yet you'll be great—your subjects free,
If the whole thing be left to me.—"
      95Thus, like the waters of the ocean,
His tongue had run in ceaseless motion,
Had not the Queen ta'en up in wrath,
This thing of folly and of froth.
      “Impertinent and witless medler,
100 Thou smattering, empty, noisy pedlar!
By vanity, thou bladder blown,
To be the football of the town.
O happy England, land of freedom,
Replete with statesmen, if she need'em,
105 Where war is wag'd by Sue or Nell,
And Jobson[5] is a Machiavel!—
Tell Hardwick[6] that his judgment fails,
Show Justice how to hold her scales.—
To fire the soul at once, and please,
110Teach Murray[7] and Demosthenes;
Say Vane[8] is not by goodness grac'd,
And wants humanity and taste.—
Tho' Pelham[9] with Mæcenas vies,
Tell Fame she's false, and Truth she lies;
115And then return, thou verbal Hector,
And give the bees another lecture.”
      This said, the portal she unbarr'd,
Calling the Bees upon their guard,
And set at once about his ears
120Ten thousand of her granadiers.—
Some on his lips and palate hung,
And the offending member stung.
 “Just (says the bard from out the grot)
Just, tho' severe, is your sad lot,
125Who think, and talk, and live in vain.
Of sweet society the bane.
Business misplac'd is a mere jest,
And active idleness at best.”



Composed not latter than March 1754. First published: no information. Text: 1791.

  1. 15. assert: lay claim to.
  2. 32. Fransis Hayman a painter, member of Royal Academy and friend of Smart provided illustrations for his Poems on Several Occasions (1752).
  3. 62. Gunter's line: the rule of proportion introduced by the mathematician Edmund Gunter.
  4. 66. William Whiston (1667-1752) Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge succeeded Newton.
  5. 106. Jobson: a country fellow, a lout.
  6. 107. Hardwick: Philip Yorke, Earl of Hardwicke (1690-1764), was courted as a patron of learning and the arts.
  7. 110. William Murray, 1st Earl of Mansfield (1705-93) was renowned for his oratory based on intensive study of classical models. Murray's wife Elizabeth Finch was the sister of Smart's patron, Duchess of Cleveland.
  8. 111. Henry Vane, 3rd Baron Barnard, Earl of Darlington (1705-58) was Smart's patron.
  9. 113. Henry Pelham (1696-1754) Prime Minister 1746-54 he was patron of many leading writers of the time.

This work was published before January 1, 1926, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.