Themes and Meanings

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

“A Tale of Two Gardens” is about an archetypal journey to achieve spiritual renewal and a vision that transcends the contradictions caused by the rules of human existence. Adam and Eve’s biblical Garden of Eden is an example of that undifferentiated original state of innocence sought by the poetic experience. The journey motif provides both the theme and structure for the work. The concept of the archetypal journey is very much a variation of anthropologist Joseph Campbell’s “adventure of the hero” as well as the process of individuation outlined by psychoanalyst Carl Jung. In it, the hero travels to the center of a magical reality to obtain the secrets that symbolically resolve human contradictions. The garden represents such a place.

The garden in Mixcoac manifests the realm of the protagonist’s original state of innocence. In that environment, the boy is nurtured. “The garden for me,” says the speaker, “was like a grandfather./ I clambered up its leafy knees.” The fig tree is then depicted as the mother and the feminine void that dominates the center of that magical world. The protagonist then grows up. Natural innocence is left behind and the garden of his youth no longer exists. The garden as a universal center becomes available again when, as an adult, the protagonist comes in search of its magical gift. What the protagonist achieves in the garden this time is expressed both intellectually and through erotic passion....

(The entire section is 427 words.)