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31 March 2012

I stole them from a Bee –

I stole them from a Bee –
Because – Thee – 

Sweet plea – 

He pardoned me!
                                                            F226 (1861)  200

This sweet poem was not written for publication and is certainly not among anthologized works. So just enjoy it! 
A sweet plea to a hungry bee
The “Sweet plea” is just too close to “sweet pea” to be ignored. And sweet peas are definitely bee magnets. I think the poet has “stolen” some sweet peas for a friend, the “Thee,” despite the claims a busy bee had on the flowers. She made a “sweet plea” about her theft of the sweet peas, and the bee pardoned her. 
            I enjoy some of the poetic techniques. The first line trots off in a nice iambic trimeter. It trips off the tongue. But then things thicken up fast with a lot of adjacent accented syllables. I underline them here: BecauseThee – / Sweet plea – / He pardoned me! In addition, each line ends with a rhyme of “Bee” – reinforced by the assonance of “Sweet” in the third line. The effect is that the first line is read as a hurried whisper – a confession; the rest of the short poem must be read slowly and with emphasis as befitting a parody of great relief.


  1. I like both interpretations--the sweet plea interpretation and the pleading interpretation.

    Can't help but wonder if she also meant,

    Because, can't you see,
    please understand,
    He let me!

    So, her inner thoughts and subsequent poems stem from the bee, and the reader (or inquisitor/judge) must understand that the Bee forgives her transgression in stealing his buzzing, sting, or "existence?" for thematic or stylistic reasons.

  2. One thing I love about Dickinson is her elevation of the bee. He is the June bee of heaven, he is the suitor circling his flower, he is God himself, he is the preacher, he is the emblem of spring, and here he is the master of the meadow from whom permission/forgiveness must be granted. So, yes, I think in a way her thoughts and poems do stem from the bee.
    Thanks for your comment!

  3. The worker honey bees are all females. Only males are the drones, who have one function. So, I don't think the poem is saying the bee pardoned her. The object stolen was most likely a flower and it may reflect on how perfect a person she was, that her only transgression was taking a flower.

  4. During the 1660s, Jan Swammerdam discovered that the “king bee” was actually a queen bee, but he did not publish his discovery. Even during ED’s lifetime it was still not common public knowledge that all bees are females, except for a few males that have short lives, one purpose, and no control over the complicated biology of bee society. Political correctness might have had something to do with that misconception.

    Maderspacher, F. 2007. All the Queen’s Men, Current Biology, 17 (6): R191-R195.

    An interpretation of this poem:

    I stole these sweet pea flowers from a Bee
    Because, dear Sue,
    I knew it would be easier to get forgiveness
    Than to get permission from a bee!

  5. Ooops, just checked the archive. Change that "dear Sue" to "dear Sam" (Bowles).