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about; but I shall give you the text of a famous little composition by
Oldys on the same topic. It has almost the simplicity of Blake, - and
certainly something of the same kind of philosophy.

Busy, curious, thirsty fly,
Drink with me and drink as I;
Freely welcome to my cup,
Couldst thou sip and sip it up:
Make the most of life you may,
Life is short and wears away.

Both alike are mine and thine
Hastening quick to their decline:
Thine's a summer, mine's no more,
Though repeated to threescore.
Threescore summers, when they're gone,
Will appear as short as one!

The suggestion is that, after all, time is only a very relative affair in
the cosmic order of things. The life of the man of sixty years is not much
longer than the life of the insect which lives but a few hours, days, or
months. Had Oldys, who belongs to the eighteenth century, lived in our own
time, he might have been able to write something very much more curious on
this subject. It is now known that time, to the mind of an insect, must
appear immensely longer than it appears to the mind of a man. It has been
calculated that a mosquito or a gnat moves its wings between four and five
hundred times a second. Now the scientific dissection of such an insect,
under the microscope, justifies the opinion that the insect must be
conscious of each beat of the wings - just as a man feels that he lifts his
arm or bends his head every time that the action is performed. A man can
not even imagine the consciousness of so short an interval of time as the
five-hundredth part of one second. But insect consciousness can be aware
of such intervals; and a single day of life might well appear to the gnat
as long as the period of a month to a man. Indeed, we have reason to
suppose that to even the shortest-lived insect life does not appear short
at all; and that the ephemeral may actually, so far as felling is
concerned, live as long as a man - although its birth and death does occur
between the rising and the setting of the sun.

We might suppose that bees would form a favourite subject of poetry,
especially in countries where agriculture is practised upon such a scale
as in England. But such is not really the case. Nearly every English poet
makes some reference to bees, as Tennyson does in the famous couplet -

The moan of doves in immemorial elms,
And murmuring of innumerable bees.

But the only really remarkable poem addressed to a bee is by the American
philosopher Emerson. The poem in question can not be compared as to mere
workmanship with some others which I have cited; but as to thinking, it is
very interesting, and you must remember that the philosopher who writes
poetry should be judged for his thought rather than for the measure of his
verse. The whole is not equally good, nor is it short enough to quote
entire; I shall only give the best parts.

Burly, dozing humble-bee,
Where thou art is clime for me.

* * * * *

Zigzag steerer, desert cheerer,
Let me chase thy waving lines;
Keep me nearer, me thy hearer,
Singing over shrubs and vines.

Insect lover of the sun,
Joy of thy dominion!
Sailor of the atmosphere;
Swimmer through the waves of air;
Voyager of light and noon;
Epicurean of June;
Wait, I prithee, till I come
Within earshot of thy hum, -
All without is martyrdom.

* * * * *

Thou, in sunny solitudes,
Rover of the underwoods,
The green silence dost displace
With thy mellow, breezy bass.

* * * * *

Aught unsavory or unclean
Hath my insect never seen;

* * * * *

Wiser far than human seer,
Yellow-breeched philosopher!
Seeing only what is fair,
Sipping only what is sweet,
Thou dost mock at fate and care,
Leave the chaff, and take the wheat.

This is really the poetry of the bee - visiting only beautiful flowers, and
sucking from them their perfumed juices - always healthy, happy, and
surrounded by beautiful things. A great rover, a constant wanderer is the
bee - visiting many different places, seeing many different things, but
stopping only to enjoy what is beautiful to the sight and sweet to the
taste. Now Emerson tells us that a wise man should act like the bee - never
stopping to look at what is bad, or what is morally ugly, but seeking only
what is beautiful and nourishing for the mind. It is a very fine thought;
and the manner of expressing it is greatly helped by Emerson's use of
curious and forcible words - such as "burly," "zigzag," and the famous
expression "yellow-breeched philosopher" - which has passed almost into an
American household phrase. The allusion of course is to the thighs of the
bee, covered with the yellow pollen of flowers so as to make them seem
covered with yellow breeches, or trousers reaching only to the knees.

I do not of course include in the lecture such child songs about insects
as that famous one beginning with the words, "How doth the little busy bee
improve each shining hour." This is no doubt didactically very good; but I
wish to offer you only examples of really fine poetry on the topic.
Therefore leaving the subject of bees for the time, let us turn to the
subject of musical insects - the singers of the fields and
woods - grasshoppers and crickets.

In Japanese poetry there are thousands of verses upon such insects.
Therefore it seems very strange that we have scarcely anything on the
subject in English. And the little that we do have is best represented by
the poem of Keats on the night cricket. The reference is probably to what
we call in England the hearth cricket, an insect which hides in houses,
making itself at home in some chink of the brickwork or stonework about a
fireplace, for it loves the warmth. I suppose that the small number of
poems in English about crickets can be partly explained by the scarcity of
night singers. Only the house cricket seems to be very well known. But on
the other hand, we can not so well explain the rarity of composition in
regard to the day-singers - the grasshoppers and locusts which can be
heard, though somewhat faintly, in any English country place after sunset
during the warm season. Another queer thing is that the example set by
Keats has not been imitated or at least followed even up to the present
time.

The poetry of earth is never dead:
When all the birds are faint with the hot sun, etc.

In this charming composition you will have noticed the word "stove"; but
you must remember that this is not a stove as we understand the term now,
and signifies only an old-fashioned fireplace of brick or tile. In Keats's
day there were no iron stoves. Another word which I want to notice is the
word "poetry" in the first line. By the poetry of nature the poet means
the voices of nature - the musical sounds made by its idle life in woods
and fields. So the word "poetry" here has especially the meaning of song,
and corresponds very closely to the Japanese word which signifies either
poem or song, but perhaps more especially the latter. The general meaning
of the sonnet is that at no time, either in winter or in summer, is nature
silent. When the birds do not sing, the grasshoppers make music for us;
and when the cold has killed or banished all other life, then the house
cricket begins with its thin sweet song to make us think of the dead
voices of the summer.

There is not much else of note about the grasshopper and the cricket in
the works of the great English poets. But perhaps you do not know that
Tennyson in his youth took up the subject and made a long poem upon the
grasshopper, but suppressed it after the edition of 1842. He did not think
it good enough to rank with his other work. But a few months ago the poems
which Tennyson suppressed in the final edition of his works have been
published and carefully edited by an eminent scholar, and among these
poems we find "The Grasshopper." I will quote some of this poem, because
it is beautiful, and because the fact of its suppression will serve to
show you how very exact and careful Tennyson was to preserve only the very
best things that he wrote.

Voice of the summer wind,
Joy of the summer plain,
Life of the summer hours,
Carol clearly, bound along,
No Tithon thou as poets feign
(Shame fall 'em, they are deaf and blind),
But an insect lithe and strong
Bowing the seeded summer flowers.
Prove their falsehood and thy quarrel,
Vaulting on thine airy feet
Clap thy shielded sides and carol,
Carol clearly, chirrups sweet.
Thou art a mailéd warrior in youth and strength complete;
Armed cap-à-pie,
Full fair to see;
Unknowing fear,
Undreading loss,
A gallant cavalier,
_Sans peur et sans reproche_.
In sunlight and in shadow,
The Bayard of the meadow.

The reference to Tithonus is a reference of course to a subject afterwards
beautifully elaborated in another poem by Tennyson, the great poem of
"Tithonus." The Bayard here referred to was the great French model of
perfect chivalry, and is sometimes called the last of the feudal knights.
He was said to be without fear and without blame. You may remember that he
was killed by a ball from a gun - it was soon after the use of artillery in
war had been introduced; and his dying words were to the effect that he
feared there was now an end of great deeds, because men had begun to fight
from a distance with machines instead of fighting in the old knightly and
noble way with sword and spear. The grasshopper, covered with green plates
and bearing so many little sharp spines upon its long limbs, seems to have
suggested to Tennyson the idea of a fairy knight in green armour.

As I said before, England is poor in singing insects, while America is
rich in them - almost, perhaps, as rich as Japan, although you will not
find as many different kinds of singing insects in any one state or
district. The singing insects of America are peculiar to particular
localities. But the Eastern states have perhaps the most curious insect of
this kind. It is called the Katydid. This name is spelt either Katydid, or
Catydid - though the former spelling is preferable. Katy, or Katie, is the
abbreviation of the name Catherine; very few girls are called by the full
name Catherine, also spelt Katherine; because the name is long and
unmusical, their friends address them usually as Katy, and their
acquaintances, as Kate. Well, the insect of which I am speaking, a kind of
_semi_, makes a sound resembling the sound of the words "Katie did!" Hence
the name - one of the few corresponding to the names given to the Japanese
_semi_, such as _tsuku-tsuku-boshi_, or _minmin-semi_. The most
interesting composition upon this cicada is by Oliver Wendell Holmes, but
it is of the lighter sort of verse, with a touch of humour in it. I shall
quote a few verses only, as the piece contains some allusions that would
require explanation at considerable length.

I love to hear thine earnest voice,
Wherever thou art hid,
Thou testy little dogmatist,
Thou pretty Katydid!
Thou mindest me of gentlefolks, -
Old gentlefolks are they, -
Thou say'st an undisputed thing
In such a solemn way.

* * * * *

Oh tell me where did Katy live,
And what did Katy do?
And was she very fair and young,
And yet so wicked, too?
Did Katy love a naughty man,
Or kiss more cheeks than one?
I warrant Katy did no more
Than many a Kate has done.

* * * * *

Ah, no! The living oak shall crash,
That stood for ages still,
The rock shall rend its mossy base
And thunder down the hill,
Before the little Katydid
Shall add one word, to tell
The mystic story of the maid
Whose name she knows so well.

The word "testy" may be a little unfamiliar to some of you; it is a good
old-fashioned English term for "cross," "irritable." The reference to the
"old gentlefolks" implies the well-known fact that in argument old persons
are inclined to be much more obstinate than young people. And there is
also a hint in the poem of the tendency among old ladies to blame the
conduct of young girls even more severely than may be necessary. There is
nothing else to recommend the poem except its wit and the curiousness of
the subject. There are several other verses about the same creature, by
different American poets; but none of them is quite so good as the
composition of Holmes. However, I may cite a few verses from one of the
earlier American poets, Philip Freneau, who flourished in the eighteenth
century and the early part of the nineteenth. He long anticipated the
fancy of Holmes; but he spells the word Catydid.

In a branch of willow hid
Sings the evening Catydid:
From the lofty locust bough
Feeding on a drop of dew,
In her suit of green arrayed
Hear her singing in the shade -
Catydid, Catydid, Catydid!

While upon a leaf you tread,
Or repose your little head
On your sheet of shadows laid,
All the day you nothing said;
Half the night your cheery tongue
Revelled out its little song, -
Nothing else but Catydid.

* * * * *

Tell me, what did Caty do?
Did she mean to trouble you?
Why was Caty not forbid
To trouble little Catydid?
Wrong, indeed, at you to fling,
Hurting no one while you sing, -
Catydid! Catydid! Catydid!

To Dr. Holmes the voice of the cicada seemed like the voice of an old
obstinate woman, an old prude, accusing a young girl of some fault, - but
to Freneau the cry of the little creature seemed rather to be like the cry
of a little child complaining - a little girl, perhaps, complaining that
somebody had been throwing stones at her, or had hurt her in some way.
And, of course, the unfinished character of the phrase allows equally well
either supposition.

Before going back to more serious poetry, I want - while we are speaking of
American poets - to make one reference to the ironical or satirical poetry
which insects have inspired in some minds, taking for example the poem by
Charlotte Perkins Stetson about a butterfly. This author is rather a
person of note, being a prominent figure in educational reforms and the
author of a volume of poems of a remarkably strong kind in the didactic
sense. In other words, she is especially a moral poet; and unless moral
poetry be really very well executed, it is scarcely worth while classing
it as literature. I think, however, that the symbolism in the following
verses will interest you - especially when we comment upon them. The
composition from which they are taken is entitled "A Conservative."

The poet, walking in the garden one morning, sees a butterfly, very
unhappy, and gifted with power to express the reason of its unhappiness.
The butterfly says, complaining of its wings,

"My legs are thin and few
Where once I had a swarm!
Soft fuzzy fur - a joy to view -
Once kept my body warm,
Before these flapping wing-things grew,
To hamper and deform!"

At that outrageous bug I shot
The fury of mine eye;
Said I, in scorn all burning hot,
In rage and anger high,
"You ignominious idiot!
Those wings are made to fly!"

"I do not want to fly," said he,
"I only want to squirm!"
And he drooped his wings dejectedly,
But still his voice was firm:
"I do not want to be a fly!
I want to be a worm!"

O yesterday of unknown lack!
To-day of unknown bliss!
I left my fool in red and black,
The last I saw was this, -
The creature madly climbing back
Into his chrysalis.

Of course the wings here represent the powers of the mind - knowledge,
reason, will. Men ought to use these in order to reach still nobler and
higher states of life. But there are men who refuse to use their best
faculties for this end. Such men are like butterflies who do not want to
take the trouble to fly, but prefer the former condition of the
caterpillar which does nothing but eat and sleep. As applied to certain
forms of conservatism the satire is strong.

Something may now be said as to poems about spiders. But let me remind you
that a spider is not an insect. Scientifically it has no relation to the
great family of true insects; it belongs to the very distinct family of
the arthropoda or "joint-footed" animals. But as it is still popularly
called an insect in most European countries, we may be excused for
including it in the subject of the present lecture. I suppose you know
that one of the scientific names for this whole class of creatures is
Arachnida, - a name derived from the Greek name Arachne. The story of
Arachne is interesting, and everybody studying natural history ought to
know it. Arachne was a young girl, according to the Greek story, who was
very skilful at weaving. She wove cloths of many different colours and
beautiful patterns, and everybody admired her work. This made her vain - so
vain that at last she said that even the goddess of weaving could not
weave better than she. Immediately after she had said that, the terrible
goddess herself - Pallas Athena - entered the room. Pallas Athena was not
only the goddess of wisdom, you know, but especially the goddess of young
girls, presiding over the chastity, the filial piety, and the domestic
occupations of virgins; and she was very angry at the conceit of this
girl. So she said to her, "You have boasted that you can weave as well as
I can; now let me see you weave!" So Arachne was obliged to sit down at
her loom and weave in the presence of the goddess; and the goddess also
wove, far surpassing the weaving of Arachne. When the weaving was done,
the goddess asked the girl, "Now see! which is the better, my work or
yours?" And Arachne was obliged to confess that she had been defeated and
put to shame. But the goddess was not thoroughly satisfied; to punish
Arachne, she touched her lightly with the distaff, saying, "Spin forever!"
and thereupon Arachne was changed into a spider, which forever spins and
weaves perishable films of perishable shiny thread. Poetically we still
may call a spider Arachne.

I have here a little poem of a touching character entitled "Arachne," by
Rose Terry Cooke, - one of the symbolic poems which are becoming so
numerous in these days of newer and deeper philosophy. I think that you
will like it: a spinster, that is, a maiden passed the age of girlhood, is
the speaker.

I watch her in the corner there,
As, restless, bold, and unafraid,
She slips and floats along the air
Till all her subtile house is made.

Her home, her bed, her daily food,
All from that hidden store she draws;
She fashions it and knows it good,
By instinct's strong and sacred laws.

No tenuous threads to weave her nest,
She seeks and gathers there or here;
But spins it from her faithful breast,
Renewing still, till leaves are sere.

Then, worn with toil, and tired of life,
In vain her shining traps are set.
Her frost hath hushed the insect strife
And gilded flies her charm forget.

But swinging in the snares she spun,
She sways to every wintry wind:
Her joy, her toil, her errand done,
Her corse the sport of storms unkind.

The symbolism of these verses will appear to you more significant when I
tell you that it refers especially to conditions in New England in the
present period. The finest American population - perhaps the finest
Anglo-Saxons ever produced - were the New Englanders of the early part of
the century. But with the growth of the new century, the men found
themselves attracted elsewhere, especially westward; their shrewdness,
their energies, their inventiveness, were needed in newer regions. And
they wandered away by thousands and thousands, never to come back again,
and leaving the women behind them. Gradually the place of these men was
taken by immigrants of inferior development - but the New England women had
nothing to hope for from these strangers. The bravest of them also went
away to other states; but myriads who could not go were condemned by
circumstances to stay and earn their living by hard work without any
prospect of happy marriage. The difficulty which a girl of culture may
experience in trying to live by the work of her hands in New England is
something not easily imagined. But it is getting to be the same in most
Western countries. Such a girl is watching a spider weaving in the corner
of the same room where she herself is weaving; and she thinks, "Am I not
like that spider, obliged to supply my every need by the work of my own
hands, without sympathy, without friends? The spider will spin and catch
flies until the autumn comes; then she will die. Perhaps I too must
continue to spin until the autumn of my own life - until I become too old
to work hard, and die of cold and of exhaustion."

Poor sister of the spinster clan!
I too from out my store within
My daily life and living plan,
My home, my rest, my pleasure spin.

I know thy heart when heartless hands
Sweep all that hard-earned web away;
Destroy its pearled and glittering bands,
And leave thee homeless by the way.

I know thy peace when all is done.
Each anchored thread, each tiny knot,
Soft shining in the autumn sun;
A sheltered, silent, tranquil lot.

I know what thou hast never known, -
Sad presage to a soul allowed -
That not for life I spin, alone,
But day by day I spin my shroud.

The reference to the sweeping away of the spider's web, of course, implies
the pain often caused to such hardworking girls by the meanness of men who
employ them only to cheat them - shopkeepers or manufacturers who take
their work without justly paying for it, and who criticize it as bad in
order to force the owner to accept less money than it is worth. Again a
reference may be intended to the destruction of the home by some legal
trick - some unscrupulous method of cheating the daughter out of the
property bequeathed to her by her parents.

Notice a few pretty words here. The "pearled" as applied to the spider's
thread gives an intimation of the effect produced by dew on the thread,
but there is also the suggestion of tears upon the thread work woven by
the hands of the girl. The participle "anchored" is very pretty in its use
here as an adjective, because this word is now especially used for
rope-fastening, whether the rope be steel or hemp; and particularly for
the fastening of the cables of a bridge. The last stanza might be
paraphrased thus: "Sister Spider, I know more than you - and that knowledge
makes me unhappy. You do not know, when you are spinning your little web,
that you are really weaving your own shroud. But I know this, my work is
slowly but surely killing me. And I know it because I have a soul - at
least a mind made otherwise than yours."

The use of the word "soul" in the last stanza of this poem, brings me back
to the question put forth in an earlier part of the lecture - why European
poets, during the last two thousand years, have written so little upon the
subject of insects? Three thousand, four thousand years ago, the most
beautiful Greek poetry - poetry more perfect than anything of English
poetry - was written upon insects. In old Japanese literature poems upon
insects are to be found by thousands. What is the signification of the
great modern silence in Western countries upon this delightful topic? I
believe that Christianity, as dogma, accounts for the long silence. The
opinions of the early Church refused soul, ghost, intelligence of any sort
to other creatures than man. All animals were considered as automata - that
is, as self-acting machines, moved by a something called instinct, for
want of a better name. To talk about the souls of animals or the spirits
of animals would have been very dangerous in the Middle Ages, when the
Church had supreme power; it would indeed have been to risk or to invite
an accusation of witchcraft, for demons were then thought to take the
shape of animals at certain times. To discuss the _mind_ of an animal
would have been for the Christian faith to throw doubt upon the existence
of human souls as taught by the Church; for if you grant that animals are
able to think, then you must acknowledge that man is able to think without
a soul, or you must acknowledge that the soul is not the essential
principle of thought and action. Until after the time of Descartes, who
later argued philosophically that animals were only machines, it was
scarcely possible to argue rationally about the matter in Europe.



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