The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

“Garden” is a brief free-verse lyric, divided into two parts. None of the poem’s twenty-four lines exceeds seven syllables in length, and many are shorter. The stanzas are of varying length, but each is made up of a single sentence. These formal characteristics reinforce the poem’s small scale; H. D. is working on a deliberately small canvas.

Each section begins with an address to an element present in the garden: to a rose in the first part, to the wind in the second. Yet each section then modulates from the prayerlike address into a more meditative consideration of the speaker’s relation to what she is describing. The terms used to describe the rose are likely to be surprising to the reader; certainly they deviate from the traditional poetic associations of roses. This rose is “clear” and “hard” and, metaphorically, “cut in rock.” the traditionally delicate flower is described as almost unbreakable: “if I could break you/ I could break a tree.”

The lines that follow hint at a transition to the description of heat and wind in section 2. The speaker wonders if she can find the strength or will to move: “if I could stir.” This lassitude prepares for the summery vision of stillness and heat that dominates the “thick air” of the second section. The wind that is addressed in the first and third sentences of this section seems present only in the speaker’s imagination. She longs for a wind to “rend open the...

(The entire section is 536 words.)