Working bees, in summer’s heat,
Making honey, stock their hives,
So that they have food to eat
When the wintry cold arrives.
By their toil their store was got,
Of it they partake their due;
Out of work with them is not,
Therefore, out of victuals too.
Working men, employed, can earn
Little more than bread and cheese;
In a hoard they’ve no concern,
Like the happier working bees.
All that they produce, beside
What their present hunger craves,
Goes for others to provide;
None, except the master, saves.
Now the winter is at hand,
Bees and men may work no more.
Bees can sustenance command;
Men can only help implore.
Masters, you will live as ease
On the fruits of labour then;
They are shared by working bees;
Give a share to working men.

Title:The Cream of Punch – 'Men and Bees'


Publication:Bury Guardian

Published in:Bury


Keywords:inequality, poverty, work


This very class conscious Punch poem uses the metaphor of bees saving honey for winter to address the problem of increasing poverty in England’s northern industrial heartland as the effects of the cotton blockade begin to take effect. It appears to be responding to criticism of workers that they had not saved money for hard times, and points out that they do not earn enough to save, and so are especially vulnerable in times of low employment. – SR