Posted by jlubans on November 02, 2018

Up in a lofty oak the Bees
Had made their honey-combs: but these
The Drones asserted they had wrought.
Then to the bar the cause was brought
Before the Wasp, a learned chief,
Who well might argue either brief,
As of a middle nature made.
He therefore to both parties said:
“You’re not dissimilar in size,
And each with each your color vies,
That there’s a doubt concerning both:
But, lest I err, upon my oath,
Hives for yourselves directly choose,
And in the wax the work infuse,
That, from the flavor and the form,
We may point out the genuine swarm.”
The Drones refuse, the Bees agree—
Then thus did Justice Wasp decree:
“Who can, and who cannot, is plain,
So take, ye Bees, your combs again.”
This narrative had been suppress’d
Had not the Drones refused the test.

Justice Wasp dispenses justice. The drone, which exists many think solely to mate with Queen Bees, is regarded as lesser than a worker bee. This is unkind.
Without the drones the hive dies.
They have a quintessential purpose: propagation
Similar, it seems, to the members of Wodehouse’s immortal Drones Club.
In that day and age, around 1900, an annual income of 200 pounds sterling a month was sufficient to keep a servant, a gentleman’s gentleman (like Jeeves) and to rent a fashionable apartment and to pay club dues. Beyond that, one lived on credit and studiously avoided creditors.
Wodehouse obviously chose the name, the Drones, to reflect on the social situation of all of these non-working young men.
Fathers were more than glad to pay the young men to stay away.
Sort of like today’s “Trust Babies”, but just better educated: boarding schools like Eton and higher up, Sandhurst, Cambridge or Oxford.
Of course, for propagation a drone had to be caught by an ambitious young woman and therein lies many of Wodehouse’s comedic plots.
Alas, or perhaps inevitably, this world ended in the great and senseless tragedy of the First World War.

* *Source: The Fables of Phaedrus Translated into English Verse. Phaedrus. Christopher Smart, A. M. London. G. Bell and Sons, Ltd. 1913.

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© Copyright John Lubans 2018

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