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by William Cullen Bryant


[WRITTEN IN 1831] -

I heard a bee, on a summer day,

Brisk and busy, and ripe for quarrel-

Bustling, and buzzing, and bouncing away,

In the fragrant depth of an old tar-barrel. -

Do you ask what his buzzing was all about?

Oh, he was wondrous shrewd and critical:

'Twas sport to hear him scold and flout,

And the topics he chose were all political. -

And first and foremost he buzzed of tar,

And called the heads of the government asses,

To let it be carried off so far,

And changed, at Trinidad, for molasses. -

For we got the West India trade too soon

From the British folks- he had not a doubt of it;

For himself, he'd have scorned the thing "as a boon,"

But kept at work till he cheated them out of it. -

Then plaintive and piteous his humming grew,

And I thought him complaining of indigestion;

But I listened again, and at length I knew

He had got upon the Indian question. -

The world, he declared, would all look glum,

To see us coax the Cherokee nation

From their fathers' graves, from the whites and rum,

Their pockets lined with a compensation. -

Next, tones of fury and wrath were heard-

And I started back with sudden wonder;

For the staves were shaken, the hoops were jarred,

And it seemed the barrel was filled with thunder. -

"'Twas a crime to fill the land with groans,

'Twas a deed," he said, "most foul and ugly,

To turn our poor unfortunate drones

From the public hive, where they lodged so snugly." -

And next- but I started at the sound

Of noses blown and people walking;

And I saw some thirty Nationals round,

And found I had dozed while Ketchum was talking. - -