Percy Bysshe Shelley

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Why does the poet compare the worker to a bee in "Song to the Men of England"?

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The poet says that the worker should not be like bee in "Song to the Men of England" because the "drones," or idle rich who produce nothing, take all of the profit from their labor. He says the workers should continue to work hard, but should keep the fruits of their labor for themselves.

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Shelley says the workers in England should not be like bees because they are supporting the "drones," or upper-class people who produce nothing of worth, while at the same driving themselves into early graves through overwork and poverty.

Shelley is using a common metaphor in comparing working people to bees as bees are known to work very hard to gather nectar to be made into honey to feed the hive. Drones, in contrast, are the bees that gather no nectar and depend on the worker bees to feed them. Usually, they are thrown out of the hive before winter comes. However, in the case of this poem, they are shown to be the parasitic rich who keep feeding on the hard labor of the workers.

Shelley was a radical for his time period, supporting the French Revolution, and he was concerned about the plight of the working man. This poem is a plea for revolt, advising the workers to throw off the useless "drones" that take all their wealth. His narrator tells the worker bees to keep on working hard by sowing crops, sewing clothes, creating wealth, and building arms, but to keep the fruits of their labor for their own benefit. In the last stanza, he describes England as a grave or "sepulcher" for the workers if they keep working for the profit of the rich (which would, ironically, include Shelley).

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