William Cowper

26 November 1731 – 25 April 1800 / Hertfordshire

The Innocent Thief

Not a flower can be found in the fields,
Or the spot that we till for our pleasure,
From the largest to the least, but it yields
The bee never wearied a treasure.

Scarce any she quits unexplored
With a diligence truly exact;
Yet, steal what she may for her hoard
Leaves evidence none of the fact.

Her lucrative task she pursues,
And pilfers with so much address,
That none of their odour they lose,
Nor charm by their beauty the less.

Not thus inoffensively preys
The cankerworm, in-dwelling foe!
His voracity not thus allays
The sparrow, the finch, or the crow.

The worm, more expensively fed,
The pride of the garden devours;
And birds peck the seed from the bed,
Still less to be spared than the flowers.

But she with such delicate skill
Her pillage so fits for her use,
That the chemist in vain with his still
Would labour the like to produce.

Then grudge not her temperate meals,
Nor a benefit blame as a theft;
Since, stole she not all that she steals,
Neither honey nor wax would be left.
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