Where would we be with out this little gem, `The Life of the Bee` by Maurice Materlinck, translated by Alfred Sutro. First published in May 1901, reprinted every year up to 1912, with the Pocket Edition in 1908 to 1920.
`What is this "spirit of the hive" - where does it reside ? It is not like the special instinct that teaches the bird to construct its well-planned nest, and then seek other skies when the day for migration returns. Nor is it a kind of mechanical habit of the race, or blind craving for life, that will fling the bees upon any wild hazard the moment an unforseen event shall derange the accustomed order of phenomena. On the contary, be the event never so masterful, the "spirit of the hive" still will follow it, step by step, like an alert and quick-witted slave, who is able to derive advantage even further from his master`s most dangerous orders.
It regulates day by day the number of births, and contrives that these shall strictly accord with the number of flowers that brighten the country-side. It decrees the queens deposition, or warns her that she must depart; it compels her to bring her own rivals into the world, and rears them royally, protecting them from their mothers political hatred. So, too, in accordance with the generosity of the flowers, the age of the spring, and the probable dangers of the nuptial flight, it will permit or forbid the first-born of the royal princesses to slay in their cradles her younger sisters, who are singing the song of the queens`
I love the language used by Materlinck, it sings to me and describes even the most ordinary occasion beautifully. Who could not resist reading the chapter `The Massacre of the Males`??