The Bee Boy’s Song

(notes by Philip Holberton)


First published in Puck of Pook’s Hill in association with “Dymchurch Flit”. Collected also in Songs from Books”, the Inclusive and Definitive Versions of Kipling’s verse, and in the Sussex and Burwash editions.

There is a rendition by Peter Bellamy here.

Notes on the Text

[Verse 1]  to us you must tell:  The Wordsworth edition notes that it used to be widely believed in England that bees would take offence, and produce less or no honey if their owners did not tell them every important piece of family news.  [D.H.]

[Verse 2] Tell ‘em coming in and out/ Where the Fanners fan: Bees station some workers at the entrance to a hive to ventilate it and control the temperature by beating their wings. See “The Mother Hive” in Actions and Reactions (p. 89 line 10):

Melissa …. fanned obediently at the regulation stroke – three hundred beats to the second.

In “The Vortex” (A Diversity of Creatures), in which a swarm of bees creates chaos in a crowded village, Kipling describes himself as ‘an apiarist of experience’ (p. 390 line 27). Charles Carrington (p. 407) confirms this, noting that ‘Rudyard had become an enthusiastic bee-keeper at Bateman’s’

Bees also figure in “Red Dog” in The Second Jungle Book.

[Verse 4]  dwine away:  waste away, pine away  [OED]



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