“The heavenly gift of honey…” Virgil, The Georgics
Thus Virgil opens his final book of The Georgics. Perhaps these words rolled of his pen with hardly a thought; or maybe they were very deliberate. Either way they express a sentiment, an insight that can hardly be missed by an earnest observer of what nature offers… especially this time of year, via the bees.
Honey is a gift; and it is from heaven.
How can we not stop and smile? The beneficent order of the natural world is already so manifest in the diligence and efficacy with which this complex society brings about the pollination and thus the fruition and reproduction of countless plants and trees.
But then there is more. The bees’ work –which still today defies human comprehension—also yields the most regal of foods. Honey!
It comes in a panoply of colors and flavors, by which an experienced honey-taster might distinguish—like a wine-taster—the plants of origin. Spread thinly on a breakfast biscuit, muffin or toast, it starts our day with the sweet savor of honest work crowned by a gratuitous completion.
While the bees themselves likely think on nary more than their own work, we are left to ponder the gift itself, and its origin. And all that it implies.
Virgil (70-19 B.C.) is the great Roman poet, author of The Aeneid and The Georgics. In the Divine Comedy he appears as Dante’s guide through hell and purgatory.