There are few things that hold more promise than a fresh patch of garden, all ready to be planted. An empty garden in springtime is a lot like an empty page on which to write a story, or draw a picture, or pour out your soul. It is full of expectations, hopes and dreams, and can be intimidating too. It is a place where miracles happen, where something emerges that didn’t exist before, something brand new.
In the classic book The Secret Garden, orphaned Mary Lennox asks of her uncle, “Might I have a bit of earth?” She wants a patch of ground to “plant seeds in — to make things grow — to see them come alive.” Gardens have been used in art and literature for thousands of years because they are such powerful symbols, of life and death and creation and the human spirit. Gardens can be beautiful, or wild, or peaceful, or thorny. They can be secret, or showy, or scary, or poetic – just like the creations that come out of a blank piece of paper.
My own garden, seen above, will have zinnias, dahlias, marigolds and aster, and perhaps I will share some pictures when it is in full bloom. (That is, if the fellow below doesn’t eat them all!)
The seasons have inspired poetry in every century, and for good reason. Today I thought I’d share one of the more famous seasonal poems by John Keats (who is also the subject of a new feature film by Jane Campion.)
Keats was an English poet who was born in 1795 and died of tuberculosis at the age of 25. His poetry was not well received by critics during his short life, and he died before winning the praise he deserved. Keats requested that the following words be put on his tombstone, in lieu of his name: “Here lies One Whose Name was writ in Water.” Keats may have felt that his own life was not worth remembering, but he needn’t have worried — his work will live on forever. You can read more about Keats and his works here.
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Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.
Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap’d furrow sound asleep,
Drows’d with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.
Where are the songs of spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too, –
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.