The White Bees

Author: Henry Van Dyke


Long ago Apollo called to Aristaeus, youngest
of the shepherds,
Saying, "I will make you keeper of my bees."
Golden were the hives, and golden was the honey;
golden, too, the music,
Where the honey-makers hummed among the trees.

Happy Aristaeus loitered in the garden, wandered
in the orchard,
Careless and contented, indolent and free;
Lightly took his labour, lightly took his pleasure,
till the fated moment
When across his pathway came Eurydice.

Then her eyes enkindled burning love within him;
drove him wild with longing,
For the perfect sweetness of her flower-like face;
Eagerly he followed, while she fled before him,
over mead and mountain,
On through field and forest, in a breathless

But the nymph, in flying, trod upon a serpent;
like a dream she vanished;
Pluto’s chariot bore her down among the dead;
Lonely Aristaeus, sadly home returning, found his
garden empty,
All the hives deserted, all the music fled.

Mournfully bewailing,—"ah, my honey-makers,
where have you departed?"—
Far and wide he sought them, over sea and shore;
Foolish is the tale that says he ever found them,
brought them home in triumph,—
Joys that once escape us fly for evermore.

Yet I dream that somewhere, clad in downy
whiteness, dwell the honey-makers,
In aerial gardens that no mortal sees:
And at times returning, lo, they flutter round us,
gathering mystic harvest,—
So I weave the legend of the long-lost bees.


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Chicago: Henry Van Dyke, "I Legend," The White Bees, ed. Keil, Heinrich, 1822-1894 and trans. Seaton, R. C. in The White Bees (New York: George E. Wood, 1850), Original Sources, accessed March 5, 2021,

MLA: Dyke, Henry Van. "I Legend." The White Bees, edited by Keil, Heinrich, 1822-1894, and translated by Seaton, R. C., in The White Bees, New York, George E. Wood, 1850, Original Sources. 5 Mar. 2021.

Harvard: Dyke, HV, 'I Legend' in The White Bees, ed. and trans. . cited in 1850, The White Bees, George E. Wood, New York. Original Sources, retrieved 5 March 2021, from