‘She rises still. A region must be found unhaunted by birds, that else might profane the mystery. She rises still; and already the ill-assorted troop below are dwindling and falling asunder. The feeble, infirm, the aged, unwelcome, ill fed, who have flown from inactive or impoverished cities – these renounce the pursuit and disappear in the void. Only a small, indefatigable cluster remain, suspended in infinite opal. She summons her wings for one final effort; and now the chosen of incomprehensible forces has reached her, has seized her, and, bounding aloft with united impetus, the ascending spiral of their intertwined flight whirls for one second in the hostile madness of love.’
Maurice Maeterlinck describing the nuptial flight of the bee in a passage ‘almost as breathtaking for the reader as for the virgin queen and her tragic consort’, as Nicholas Asprey wrote in Slightly Foxed Issue 56. His article on Maeterlinck’s The Life of the Bee – ‘not a scientific study or a treatise on practical beekeeping but a study of the bees and their culture’ – was illustrated with this beautiful woodcut of hives in a Somerset garden by Miriam McGregor.