I can’t think about anything but the Super Bowl right now. Sure, we just elected a new mayor (at last!), and I have to make a sweet potato/turnip casserole for the party. And then there are the sundry Sunday chores to do around the house. Yet, I cannot hold a sensible thought beyond the game this afternoon. What has happened to me? I used to have my head straight. Now I’m a Saints fan.
Emily doesn’t care about the Saints or football, for that matter. Not really. She pretends to go along with the tide of enthusiasm, but I know she’d rather dither in the garden with a Bee.
# 896, c. 1864
Of Silken Speech and Specious Shoe
A Traitor is the Bee
His service to the newest Grace
His Suit a chance
His Troth a Term
Protracted as the Breeze
Continual Ban propoundeth He
Maybe when she wrote “Breeze” she meant to write “Brees”? Maybe not.
How like a Bee is a man. Or how like a Bee is the masculinized Emily. What is it, Em? Are you the flower? One of many visited by the inconstant bee, who “marries” and “divorces” lightly and often. Or are you, Emily, the one whose shifty heart refuses to remain fixed on one love? The poem does not tell us where she stands in the scene. Nor does the poem tell us what we are supposed to think of a bee whose affections are so unreliable.
The bee is a “traitor”, guilty of pretty flattery (“silken speech”) and offering false footing in relationship (“specious shoe”). Yet he is present to grace continually. That appearance of the word “grace” holds my attention. It is the only wholesome word in the poem. The only inspiration to rise out of the wretched mass of deceit and betrayal and divorce.
Grace. The bee is the agent of grace at every moment. I am still struggling with grace. How to explain it? The best I can do is to describe the space or movement around grace. Grace exists in a spontaneous burst, unsolicited and unanticipated. Grace descends from Heaven, touches us and is gone. We can’t ask for it and can’t hold it. It is the only real gift from God.
Emily says that grace, this ephemeral treasure beyond measure, may come to us by specious means. Do not judge the agent of grace. He may appear as a corrupted form. Untrustworthy trickster, unfaithful, unreliable. No one you’d introduce to your friends. Yet he may bestow the only gift worth having. We may not understand the container that God chooses to deliver grace. That is not ours to evaluate. Nor can we refuse grace if it comes to us by way of a character we do not admire. It would be hubris for us to decide what is the proper form grace should take. Our role in relationship to grace is to receive it. Allow our soul to be pollinated by the visitation, and let it go.