Sections א and ב use third-person language when addressing the bee, referring to the bee as a separate object from the reader (דבורה). Section ג changes to address the bee directly rather than addressing a third party like in the earlier stanzas. In the previous two stanzas, the voice of the poem addresses an unknown reader, forming a collective “we” between the poem’s voice and the reader (“אך נכתי”). This second-person address adds a striking moment of intimacy in the poem as the poem asks of the bee, מדבשך? מי יזכר את דבשך? (Your honey? Who will remember your honey?). Goldberg juxtaposes this question with a description of the bee herself, ֿ
“כלך עקץ, שנאה אין-אונים עלובה ועורת”/”All of you stinger, hatred that is helpless, miserable and blind”. The bee produces honey that is sweet and pleasing, yet her body itself is abrasive and terrifying. More broadly, perhaps we can read this as a questioning of the relationship between product and creator. Will the attributes of the creator, with all of her flaws, overshadow the legacy of that which she produced?
The negative language surrounding the bee in this stanza (עקץ, פחד, שנאה, אונים, עלובה) differs greatly from the early, almost laudatory language in stanza א, where we poem asks “אך נכתיר אותה בדברי שירה״”/”How can we crown her with songs of praise?” (a line that presumably hails from biblical or liturgical origins, also resembling Song of Songs) and refers to the bee as מלכה. The poem seems to follow a circular pattern: we begin by seeing the bee, spatially placed on the ” רבוע חלון מואר על שמשה”, described as both elegant, as a מלכה, and as having ‘ugly threat’, באיום מכוער. It is a poem of opposites. The idea of the bee as a high-flying, sweet-honey-producing, “golden leaf”, Queen Bee clashes starkly with what is visually described; perhaps the bee once was elegant and pleasant, as described in the past tense in section ב, but the bee’s body in the present moment is described with harsh, undesirable language. The poem ends in a similar way, placing the bee yet again in the present moment on the window pane (שמשה מאורה), but this time using no language of beauty. The bee’s body is ugly, her honey forgotten, and is advised to protect her soul from the fear that her body causes in others. How powerless the bee, once called a Queen, seems here!
The meter is comfortable (albeit varied), following an expected pace and breaking the lines in ways that do not necessarily distract from the reading. We see only in section ב any sort of rhyme: the words at the end of the 1st, 2nd and 4th lines rhyme in each stanza, while the 3rd lines of stanzas 1 and 2 in section ב rhyme with their plural endings. Significantly, section ב of the poem is the only section that refers to the bee in a past time; the structure and rhyme of these lines add a sense of clarity and order, perhaps even peace, to the memory of the bee as she once was. This contrasts nicely with the disorder and lack of structure in א and ג, stanzas that detail the present moment, where the lines break in the middle of sentences and the flow, albeit managable, lacks the sense of order we find in ג.
In regard to structure, the final two lines of the poem stand in stark contrast to the rest of the poem. Goldberg writes,
” הפחד הורג. השמרי לנפשך”
There is a grand statement here (“fear kills”) followed by a direct statement of advice, perhaps even warning: “protect your soul”. The lines here are short, direct and visually separated and staggered on the page/ The poem began with a visual description of a bee outside of a window, continued by entering the reader into a relationship with the bee by creating a collective “we” (as referenced above), and ending in direct conversation with the bee herself. The poem draws the reader further in, transitioning from the analysis of a being outside of the self and ending with a relationship between the creature and the reader that encourages some sort of introspection. The way the final line is written, “השמרי לנפשך “protect your soul”, blurs the lines between the bee and the reader. Is the poem warning the bee? The reader? To whom does the נפש belong? If we read the line as addressing the reader, what have we created that could be considered our ‘honey’? “הסתכלות בדבורה” is a complex poem that asks us to consider creator and product, vulnerability and supremacy, beauty and ugly and divulges new interpretations after each reading.