John Greenleaf Whittier was first and foremost a Quaker. The isolation from the congregational activities of his peers led to the extreme closeness of the family which was to be recreated in his greatest work. He found books on Quaker history and doctrine, including William Sewel’s History of the Rise, Increase, and Progress of the Christian People Called Quakers, to read in his home and use in later narrative poems.
Telling the Bees
"There are the beehives ranged in the sun;A remarkable custom, brought from the Old Country, formerly prevailed in the rural districts of New England. On the death of a member of the family, the bees were at once informed of the event, and their hives dressed in mourning. This ceremonial was supposed to be necessary to prevent the swarms from leaving their hives and seeking a new home.
And down by the brink
Of the brook are her poor flowers, weed-o'errun,
Pansy and daffodil, rose and pink"
Much more (including the full "Telling the Bees" poem) at:- http://myweb.northshore.edu/users/sherman/whittier/quaker/index.html