The Garden "God The First Garden Made, And The First City, Cain"

L. A. G. Strong

"God The First Garden Made, And The First City, Cain"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: Disappointed with his lack of success in life, Abraham Cowley retired from what he termed "the tumult and business of the world" to become one of the best essayists of his time. His essays often contain poetry, sometimes his own, which becomes an integral part of the essay. His poem entitled "The Garden" is really part of such an essay, the first part of which is an epistle to John Evelyn, Cowley's friend and fellow member of the Royal Society, who had dedicated his Kalendarium Hortense to Cowley. In the prose portion of Cowley's essay, as well as in the poetical portion, the writer displays the epicureanism so often associated with the neoclassical period. He begins by saying, "I never had any other desire so strong and so like to covetousness as that one which I have always had, that I might be master at last of a small house and a large garden. . . ." As a typical neoclassical epicurean, Cowley believed a quiet country life taken up with books, a garden, and domestic tasks was far the best for man. He points out that God gave man a garden even before He gave man a wife. He goes on to say that it was out of His wisdom that God placed man in the Garden of Eden:

For God, the Universal Architect,
'T had been as easy to erect
A Louvre or Escurial, or a tow'r
That might with Heav'n communication hold,
As Babel vainly thought to do of old:
He wanted not the skill or pow'r;
In the world's fabric those were shown,
And the materials were all His own.
But well He knew what place would best agree
With innocence, and with felicity:
And we elsewhere still seek for them in vain.
If any part of either yet remain,
If any part of either we expect,
This may our judgment in the search direct;
God the first Garden made, and the first city, Cain.