The Poem

“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...

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Forms and Devices

The figurative language used to describe the rose in the first two sentences of the poem is significant in its invocation of the plastic and pictorial arts. The rose is “cut in rock,” suggesting sculpture; the brilliant color of the petals can be scraped off “like spilt dye,” suggesting painting. These comparisons intimate how Imagist poetry sought the hardness and simplicity of the nonlinguistic art forms. Resisting flowery language, H. D. describes a flower with two references to “rock,” the use of “clear” and “hard,” and the repetition of “break” four times. The desire to render the soft rose as something hard and unsentimental emerges in the simple diction as well: of the fifty-one words in the first section, all but three are single syllables, and all are common, familiar words.

Word repetition is important in the second section as well, where “rend” and “cut” are both significantly repeated. A contrast emerges between the longed-for, refreshing cutting action of the wind and the still air that generates such verbs as “drop,” “fall,” “blunts,” and “rounds.” The hyperbolic assertion that the thick air actually shapes the fruit is reinforced with alliteration: “through this thick” appears in the line before “fruit” and “fall,” while the p sound unites “presses up,” “points,” “pears,” and “grapes.”

“Garden” is essentially a poem of images, and much of...

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