Guest poem submitted by Andrew Bateman:
(Poem #1693) The Garden
How vainly men themselves amaze To win the palm, the oak, or bays, And their uncessant labors see Crowned from some single herb or tree, Whose short and narrow-vergèd shade Does prudently their toils upbraid; While all the flowers and trees do close To weave the garlands of repose. Fair Quiet, have I found thee here, And Innocence, thy sister dear! Mistaken long, I sought you then In busy companies of men: Your sacred plants, if here below, Only among the plants will grow; Society is all but rude, To this delicious solitude. No white nor red was ever seen So amorous as this lovely green; Fond lovers, cruel as their flame, Cut in these trees their mistress' name. Little, alas, they know or heed, How far these beauties hers exceed! Fair trees! wheresoe'er your barks I wound No name shall but your own be found. When we have run our passion's heat, Love hither makes his best retreat: The gods who mortal beauty chase, Still in a tree did end their race. Apollo hunted Daphne so, Only that she might laurel grow, And Pan did after Syrinx speed, Not as a nymph, but for a reed. What wondrous life is this I lead! Ripe apples drop about my head; The luscious clusters of the vine Upon my mouth do crush their wine; The nectarine and curious peach Into my hands themselves do reach; Stumbling on melons as I pass, Insnared with flowers, I fall on grass. Meanwhile the mind, from pleasure less, Withdraws into its happiness: The mind, that ocean where each kind Does straight its own resemblance find; Yet it creates, transcending these, Far other worlds, and other seas; Annihilating all that's made To a green thought in a green shade. Here at the fountain's sliding foot, Or at some fruit-tree's mossy root, Casting the body's vest aside, My soul into the boughs does glide: There like a bird it sits and sings, Then whets and combs its silver wings; And, till prepared for longer flight, Waves in its plumes the various light. Such was that happy garden-state, While man there walked without a mate: After a place so pure and sweet, What other help could yet be meet! But 'twas beyond a mortal's share To wander solitary there: Two paradises 'twere in one To live in Paradise alone. How well the skillful gardener drew Of flowers and herbs this dial new; Where from above the milder sun Does through a fragrant zodiac run; And, as it works, the industrious bee Computes its time as well as we. How could such sweet and wholesome hours Be reckoned but with herbs and flowers!
(1621-1678) Given the last poem ("You, Andrew Marvell" by Archibald MacLeish, Poem #1692) I thought it would be good to include Marvell's "The Garden." I have no idea what this poem is about. The garden relates to Earth and to Paradise, and there is a to and fro between human endeavour and the mindless perfection of the garden. There are religious overtones (and who, living in Marvell's England, at war between the King/Church of England and Puritanism/Parliament could avoid such overtones?). All I can say is that this poem has wandered around my head since I first read it. At times when everything seems to be going to the dogs, I find much comfort in the quiet sanity of the lines Meanwhile the mind, from pleasure less, Withdraws into its happiness: The mind, that ocean where each kind Does straight its own resemblance find; Yet it creates, transcending these, Far other worlds, and other seas; Annihilating all that's made To a green thought in a green shade. For me, if he had written nothing else, this would have been enough. You could argue that the lines "Two paradises 'twere in one / To live in Paradise alone." are misogynist, but the rest of the work, I think, compensates for this. Andrew.