Introduction

The poem ‘The Little Busy Bee’ demonstrates an admiration towards the honey bee’s purposefulness in life. Issac Watts, the poet, outlines how the small bee is always doing something valuable. It can extract nectar, build a hive skilfully and store honey, among other things. Despite its small size, it serves many purposes.

About the poet

Isaac Watts was a hymn writer, theologian, and logician who served as a preacher in the English Congregational Church. He wrote around 750 hymns and was a prolific and successful hymn writer. He lived from July 17,1674 to November 25, 1748. Horae Lyricae was his first hymn book written for children. “O God, Our Help in Ages Past,” “The Psalms of David,” and “Jesus Shall Reign” are among his most popular hymns.

Theme

The poet explains that, like the bee, we must always be active and accomplish valuable work. The poet wants to spend his childhood days reading nice books, playing games, and performing good and helpful tasks. Issac Watts believes that every human being has the potential to be as busy as a bee and perform valuable work. Bees are skilled at constructing hives. Using the example of these small creatures, the poet asks us we to make the most of our time. We should put up our best efforts to complete the task, especially ones that we are skilled at.

Structure

The poem is light and punchy. It is composed of quatrains (quatrain is a group of four lines that make up one stanza). Stanzas 1 and 2 have rhyme scheme abcb, whereas stanzas 3 and 4 have the rhyme scheme abab. ‘The Little Busy Bee’ is a short, inspiring poem. 

Stanza 1

How doth the little busy bee 
Improve each shining hour;
And gather honey all the day
From every opening flower!

The poet is baffled as to how the busy little bee grows more energized and works even harder and improves every shining hour (when the sun shines). He’s also surprised as to how it manages to gather honey all day by flying from flower to flower.

Stanza 2

How skilfully she builds her cell!
 How neatly she spreads her wax, 
And labours hard to store it well 
With the sweet food she makes!

According to the poet, the honey bee masterfully builds the cells within the honey comb. She evenly distributes the waxcreates honey from the nectar, and works diligently to keep it safe.

Stanza 3

In work of labour or of skill
I would be busy too
For Satan finds some mischief still
For idle hands too do.

The poet is inspired by the bustling bee and want to follow it. As a result, he promises that he will be busy doing labouror putting his skills to use, anytime he is required to do so. Because he believes that if he doesn’t, Satan (devil) would try to sway him or any other idle person into doing something bad. It recalls the saying, “Idle mind is a devil’s workshop.”

Stanza 4

In books or work or healthful play,
Let my first years be passed, 
That I may give for every day,
Some good account at last.

Reading books, working, and playing healthy games are all things that the poet wishes to do during his early years. In everything he undertakes, he wishes to pass with flying colours. So that once he is called upon to account for his actions, he will be able to give a fair account of what he has achieved.