“Twicknam Garden” is a lyric in three unorthodox nine-line stanzas, with five lines in iambic pentameter and four in iambic tetrameter, rhyming ababbccdd. It is essentially a compliment poem, a gift to the poet’s (theoretical) mistress. Both the persona speaking in the poem and the recipient are participating in a popular social role-playing game of the period. The poet presents himself as emotionally devastated because he cannot stop loving, although his beloved constantly rejects him and even holds him in disdain. The lady, on the other hand, while possessing all the qualities capable of inspiring love, must remain serenely aloof, arousing passion but in no way obligated to respond or even acknowledge it. This is the standard situation of the conventional sonnet sequence. Since Twickenham Park was the principal residence of the Countess of Bedford, one can assume she was the lady.
The poem begins by establishing the poet’s emotional situation—“blasted with sighs, and surrounded with tears.” The images are more intense than modern readers recognize: The poet compares himself to a winter countryside, torn by winds and immersed in water. He comes to Twickenham Garden for more than relief; he comes for everything that spring, the restorer of life, implies. Here life is restored through the eyes and ears, by seeing and hearing the lady, but even here the poet is caught in a dilemma: The presence of the lady provokes him to declare his...
(The entire section is 511 words.)