“The Garden,” which comprises nine eight-line stanzas, opens with the assertion that people ordinarily confuse themselves (“amaze,” with a possible pun on the “maze,” a common feature of seventeenth century formal gardens) by pursuing recognition in only one field, as represented by wreaths associated with military (palm), civic (oak), and poetic (bay) achievements. Against those conventional modes of activity, the speaker, who enters the poem as “I” in the next stanza, argues for the ease and retirement embodied in the combined vegetation of the garden. Its plants, he offers, will provide the quiet and innocence he has mistakenly sought in the busy world, for such conditions result not from “society,” but from “solitude.”
In the third and fourth stanzas, the speaker reflects on the destructiveness of lovers, who record their passions by carving their initials on trees. The white and red (pallor and blushing) of the lovers’ complexions are not actually as worthy of admiration as is the green of the restful garden. Against the intense pursuits recounted in classical mythology, specifically in Ovid’s Metamorphoses (c. 8 c.e.), the speaker (now using the first-person plural, “we”) proposes love’s retreat to the security of the garden.
With the fifth stanza, the speaker exalts in his own sensuous indulgence in the rich fruits of the garden. In an environment without...
(The entire section is 499 words.)