Verse > Anthologies > Joseph Friedlander, comp. > The Standard Book of Jewish Verse
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Joseph Friedlander, comp.  The Standard Book of Jewish Verse.  1917.
 
Solomon and the Bees
By John Godfrey Saxe
 
I
WHEN Solomon was reigning in his glory,
  Unto his throne the Queen of Sheba came;
(So in the Talmud you may read the story)
  Drawn by the magic of the monarch’s fame,
To see the splendours of his court, and bring        5
Some fitting tribute to the mighty King.
 
II
Nor this alone: much had her highness heard
  What flowers of learning graced the royal speech;
What gems of wisdom dropped with every word;
  What wholesome lesson he was wont to teach        10
In pleasing proverbs; and she wished in sooth,
To know if rumor spake the simple truth.
 
III
Besides, the Queen had heard (which piqued her most)
  How through the deepest riddles he could spy;
How all the curious arts that women boast        15
  Were quite transparent to his piercing eye;
And so the Queen had come—a royal guest—
To put the Sage’s cunning to the test.
 
IV
And straight she held before the monarch’s view,
  In either hand a radiant wealth of flowers;        20
The one, bedeckt with every charming hue,
  Was newly culled from Nature’s choicest bowers.
The other, no less fair in every part,
Was the rare product of divinest art.
 
V
“Which is the true, and which the false?” she said.
        25
  Great Solomon was silent. All amazed,
Each wondering courtier shook his puzzled head;
  While at the garlands long the Monarch gazed,
As one who sees a miracle, and fain,
For very rapture ne’er would speak again.        30
 
VI
“Which is the true?” Once more the woman asked,
  Pleased at the fond amazement of the king;
“So wise a head should not be hardly tasked
  Most learned Liege, with such a trivial thing!”
But still the sage was silent; it was plain        35
A deep’ning doubt perplexed his royal brain.
 
VII
While thus he pondered, presently he sees,
  Hard by the casement—so the story goes—
A little band of busy bustling bees,
  Hunting for honey in a withered rose.        40
The monarch smiled, and raised his royal head:
“Open the window!”—that was all he said.
 
VIII
The window opened at the King’s command.
  Within the room the eager insects flew,
And sought the flowers in Sheba’s dexter hand,        45
  And so the king and all the courtiers knew,
That wreath was Nature’s—and the baffled Queen,
Returned to tell the wonders she had seen.
 
IX
My story teaches (every tale should bear
  A fitting moral) that the wise may find,        50
In trifles light as atoms of the air,
  Some useful lesson to enrich the mind—
Some truth designed to profit or to please—
As Israel’s king learned wisdom from the bees.
 
 
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