Themes and Meanings

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The very process whereby the poet captures the interaction of observing mind and perceived object through the shifting medium of language is, in a certain sense, the recurring theme of Imagist poetry. It would be a mistake to strive too hard to read the poem symbolically, or to interpret it as a document of an emotional state. Nevertheless, any literary work that invokes a garden invites one to think of the Edenic garden that has so frequently animated the artistic imagination. That the poem is phrased as an invocation or prayer and makes reference to at least one kind of “fall” provides, perhaps, further grounds for this sort of consideration. If the Garden of Eden and the Fall of Man lurk behind this poem, how might it be manifest?

The only viable answer lies in the speaker’s weariness and apparent powerlessness. One consequence of the Fall is humankind’s entrance into the world of labor, a world in which one must work to make things grow, and struggle against barren soil, drought, and difficult climates. The oppressive heat, which, ironically, keeps the fruit from falling, reminds one that this garden is no Eden. Its hard roses and blunted pears reflect beauty in an imperfect and fallen world in which the human speaker is separate from nature, and even calls on one natural force (the wind) to relieve another (the heat). The poem is not, by any means, an allegory of the Fall. As its title and the word “fall” remind one, however, it is set in the fallen world that humans accept as natural. Some of the natural imagery may appear sexually charged, as well, and that is consistent with a depiction of a garden in the fallen world. The rounded fruits held up by the hot atmosphere are shaped by the forces pressing against them. More suggestively, the longed-for wind is seen as a force which plows open the heat, cuts it open, and rends it. The sense that the play of natural forces in the process of generation is one of violent antagonism suggests the condition of sexuality in the fallen world.

In that world, the poet wrests a momentary fragment or image. And the beauty of the poem lies in that vivid interaction of speaker, nature, and language that shapes the imagery of this deceptively simple poem. “Garden” has a simple integrity of its own, though it owes its shape in part to the poetic traditions H. D. resists or rebels against. For H. D., as for Pound, the Imagist period was an early phase in a rich poetic career; it was an important phase for its cleansing power, for the way it opened English poetry to new possibilities.

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