Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Tears of Bees

tu pater es, rerum inventor, tu patria nobis suppeditas praecepta, tuisque ex, inclute, chartis, floriferis ut apes in saltibus omnia libant, omnia nos itidem depascimur aurea dicta…Lucretius, De Rerum Natura, Bk. 3, ll. 9-12

You are our father, the discoverer of truths, you supply us with a father's precepts, from your pages, illustrious man, as bees in the flowery glades sip all the sweets, so we likewise feed on all your golden words

So much depends on the bees. I was working in the yard Monday and they were right there beside me, hitting up the wild flowers. We blissfully ignored one another, being careful to keep our respective distances: the bees, from my hoe; me, from their stings. As I watched them, my mind wandered and this poem was born.

Bý-tár Bee's-tears Prose Order
Engis gulla augar
óð-rærs hæna smyrill;
fluga-stinga súpa
sæta mjölk-blóms læ-víss.
Vængar með höggvanda
vínsvelgr fljóta til býhus
Þer hunangs ymr-þjuða
þrek-liga stemma lækr-gull

Birti-gulla bý-tár
bekkr dam-stæð leka
játir bara-jastars
yndi-ligr bekkr vinds-gnýr.
Hrannir út hann dynjað
Hárs á saltunnu skáldit
siglað Óðinns segjað
skald-skipit ok öl-hrönn
Meadow golden-eyes
wisdom-raiser attract hawk;
fly-sting sips
sweet milk-bloom liquor-wise.
Wings with staggering
drunkard floats to beehouse;
there honey buzzing-tribe
strongly stems stream-gold.

Bright-gold bee-tears
brook dam-yard leaks
yields wave-yeast
Charming brook squalling.
waves out of which poured
Hárs onto hall-barrel the skald
sails Odin´s speaks
skald´s ship and ale-wave.
The meadow's golden eyes
attract the hawk of wisdom-raiser;
stinging-fly sips
sweet intoxicating flower´s milk.
With staggering wings
drunkard floats to beehive
The buzzing tribe there honey
golden streams stems strongly.

Dam-yard leaks a brook
of bright-gold bee-tears;
charming brook yields
to squally yeast-wave
which pours into the waves
of Hárs hall-barrel [and] into the skald
[who] sails the skald's ship
and speaks Odin´s ale-wave


Kennings Used:

engis augar > eyes of the meadow > wildflowers

óðörærs smyrill > hawk of the wisdom raiser > hawk of nectar > bee

mjölk-bloms > milk of the flowers > nectar

bý-tár > bee's tears > honey

dam-stæði > dam-yard > honey-comb

bara-jastars > yeast-wave > mead

hrannir Hárs saltunnu > waves of Hár´s (Óðinn´s) hall-barrel > mead

skald-skipit > the skald-ship > dreams

Óðinns öl-hrönn > Ódinn's ale-wave > poetry


Please, now that you've read the poem, leave me a comment on it. Here are the three questions:
1. What did you like about this poem?

2. What would you change about this poem?

3. What else would you like to learn?
Finally, a shout out to Dr Beverliey Braune, whose excellent blog, Musings on skáldic poetry is a constant inspiration to me. Thank you, Dr. Braune.




  1. I like the imagery of the bee's as hawks and drunkards floating home. I like this whole poem.

    It seems the rhythm of the poem (ideas, not meter) changes for the second stanza so the first stays with me more.

    I am learning by reading at this point. I appreciate the explanation of the kennings.


  2. The notion of moving from bees in the flowers through the honey in the hive and the honey in the mead to the skald's poetry was with me from the beginning. I hoped the break between verses wouldn't be too jarring. I understand what you're saying, though. I guess I'd say, "to each his own...."

    Thanks for continuing to read and comment!