1] "A remarkable custom, brought from the Old Country, formerly prevailed in the rural districts of New England. On the death of a member of the family, the bees were at once informed of the event, and their hives dressed in mourning. This ceremonial was supposed to be necessary to prevent the swarms from leaving their hives and seeking a new home." (Whittier's note, p. 59) "The scene is minutely that of the Whittier homestead." (editor, p. 59)
Whittier's editor (p. 518) quotes S. T. Pickard's Life and Letters of John Greenleaf Whittier:
The place Whittier had in mind was his birthplace. There were bee-hives on the garden terrace near the well-sweep, occupied perhaps by the descendants of Thomas Whittier's bees. The approach to the house from over the northern shoulder of Job's Hill by a path that was in constant use in his boyhood and still in existence, is accurately described in the poem. The `gap in the old wall' is still to be seen, and `the stepping stones in the shallow brook' are still in use. His sister's garden was down by the brook-side in front of the house, and her daffodils are perpetuated and may now be found in their season each year in that place. The red-barred gate, the poplars, the cattle yard with `the white horns tossing above the wall,' were all part of Whittier's boy life on the old farm. Even the touch of `the sundown's blaze on her window pane' is realistic. The only place from which the blaze of the setting sun could be seen reflected in the windows of the old mansion is from the path so perfectly described .... All the story about Mary and her lover is wholly imaginative.
Online text copyright © 2003, Ian Lancashire for the Department
of English, University of Toronto.
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries.
Original text: The Complete Poetical Works of John Greenleaf Whittier, Cambridge edition, ed. H. E. S. (Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1894): 59-60. PS 3250 E94 1894 Robarts Library.
First publication date: 1858
RPO poem editor: Ian Lancashire
RP edition: RPO 1998.
Recent editing: 2:2002/2/20
Other poems by John Greenleaf Whittier