“The Arrival of the Bee Box” is a poem by Sylvia Plath, one of the most prominent American poets of the 20th century. It was published in her bestselling collection Ariel, and forms parts of a sequence of poems that involve bees in some shape or form. In the poem, the first-person speaker receives the bee box that she “ordered.” She contemplates her power over the box and the bees, variously feeling like does and doesn’t want it. By the end, she resolves to set the bees free—but will only do so “tomorrow,” ensuring the poem ends on a note of irresolution.
I ordered this, ...
... din in it.
The box is ...
... grid, no exit.
I put my ...
... black, angrily clambering.
How can I ...
... my god, together!
I lay my ...
... am the owner.
I wonder how ...
... of the cherry.
They might ignore ...
... is only temporary.
Select any word below to get its definition in the context of the poem. The words are listed in the order in which they appear in the poem.
Plath's Life and Poems — A valuable resource from the Poetry Foundation about Plath and her work.
Plath and Hughes — An early radio interview with Plath and her poet husband Ted Hughes.
On Beekeeping — An interesting look into the history of beekeeping.
"The Ending Sylvia Plath Wanted" — An article on how Plath, before her death, had wanted her collection Ariel to close with her bee poems.
A Reading of the Poem — An interesting visual take on "The Arrival of the Bee Box."
1I ordered this, clean wood box
2Square as a chair and almost too heavy to lift.
3I would say it was the coffin of a midget
4Or a square baby
5Were there not such a din in it.
6The box is locked, it is dangerous.
7I have to live with it overnight
8And I can't keep away from it.
9There are no windows, so I can't see what is in there.
10There is only a little grid, no exit.
11I put my eye to the grid.
12It is dark, dark,
13With the swarmy feeling of African hands
14Minute and shrunk for export,
15Black on black, angrily clambering.
16How can I let them out?
17It is the noise that appalls me most of all,
18The unintelligible syllables.
19It is like a Roman mob,
20Small, taken one by one, but my god, together!
21I lay my ear to furious Latin.
22I am not a Caesar.
23I have simply ordered a box of maniacs.
24They can be sent back.
25They can die, I need feed them nothing, I am the owner.
26I wonder how hungry they are.
27I wonder if they would forget me
28If I just undid the locks and stood back and turned into a tree.
29There is the laburnum, its blond colonnades,
30And the petticoats of the cherry.
31They might ignore me immediately
32In my moon suit and funeral veil.
33I am no source of honey
34So why should they turn on me?
35Tomorrow I will be sweet God, I will set them free.
36The box is only temporary.