The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

“A Tale of Two Gardens” is a long poem in free verse that evokes the concept of rebirth and renewal found in the return to a timeless beginning symbolized by images of gardens. The poem uses garden imagery to represent key and dynamic moments in Octavio Paz’s life in Mexico and India. As the title of the poem indicates, there are two gardens in the work. The first is associated with Paz’s childhood in Mixcoac, which is now a part of Mexico City. The second garden is located in India, where the poet served as an ambassador from Mexico for a number of years. This garden also provides the setting for the author’s second marriage. The poem is written in the first person and genuinely reflects an intense personal experience with universal implications. The beginning of the piece immediately establishes the garden not so much as a place but as a moment outside of normal time and space. It is depicted as a void, an archetypal center through which the rivers of cosmic life flow.

The first experience in the garden occurs during the poet’s childhood. It is a time of idyllic vision that only the innocence of youth can create. As the protagonist leaves his youth, he also symbolically abandons the garden and its transpersonal nature. The garden of childhood becomes a ruin for ants to harvest. The protagonist’s return to the garden during adulthood represents a return to that magical center abandoned after childhood. This time it is in a garden in India...

(The entire section is 415 words.)