Lips unused to Thee—
Bashful—sip thy Jessamines—
As the fainting Bee—
Reaching late his flower,
Round her chamber hums—
Counts his nectars—
Enters—and is lost in Balms.
- F205 (1861) 211
Too much paradise too soon would be just … too much. It is not to rushed at and inhaled, nor is it to be wished that we are swooped up to heaven instantaneously. What should be bliss might turn instead to oversatiety or even fearful incomprehension.
The poem’s tone is solemn and slow, opening with a spondee – Come slowly – and using long vowel sounds to stretch the line out: slowly, Eden. The second line continues the long sounds with “unused” and “Thee.” A nice rhyme of “Thee” with “Bee,” again with the long sounds,” imparts a prayerful, hymn-like quality to the stanza.
The stanza is also quite visual. We see a bashful person – a pilgrim or someone on death’s door, or someone in ecstatic trance – verging on Eden. The vision is so intense and desirable that the pilgrim only sips bashfully at the heavenly nectar – the sweet “Jessamines” with their fragrant balm, or nectar. We are used to ordinary life, so is it any wonder that Eden might be overpowering? We then see the Bee, weak and “fainting,” and then the stanza breaks, which serves again to postpone pleasure just as the pleasure of Eden must be sipped.
|Bee about to lose itself in the balm of a jasmine
(photo courtesy of Dev Wijewardane)