Poesía Inglesa de los Siglos XIX y XX

back to home page

Love and Worship of Nature in the poetry from 1830 to 1950


In a coign of the cliff between lowland and highland,
At the sea-down’s edge between wind-ward and lee,
Wall’d round with rocks as an inland island,
The ghost of a garden fronts the sea.
A girdle of brushwood and thorn enclose                                                 
The steep, square slope of the blossom-less bed
Where the weeds that grew green from the graves of its roses
 Now lie dead.

 The fields fall southward, abrupt and broken,
To the low last edge of the long lone land                                                 10
If a step should sound or a word be spoken,
Would a ghost not rise at the strange guest’s hand?
So long have the gray, bare walks lain guestless,
Through branches and briers if a man make way,
He shall find no life but the sea-wind’s, restless
Night and day.

 The dense, hard passage is blind and stifled
That crawls by a track none turn to climb

To the strait waste place that the years have rifled
Of all but the thorns that are touch’d not of Time.                                 20
The thorns he spares when the rose is taken;
The rocks are left when he wastes the plain.
The wind that wanders, the weeds wind-shaken,
These remain.

Not a flower to be press’d of the foot that falls not
As the heart of a dead man the seed-plots are dry;
From the thicket of thorns whence the nightingale calls not,
Could she call, there were never a rose to reply.
Over the meadows that blossom and wither
 Rings but the note of a sea-bird's song;                                                 30
Only the sun and the rain come hither
All year long.

The sun burns sere and the rain dishevels
One gaunt bleak blossom of scentless breath.
Only the wind here hovers and revels
In a round where life seems barren as death.
Here there was laughing of old, there was weeping,
Haply, of lovers none ever will know,
Whose eyes went seaward a hundred sleeping
Years ago.                                                                                                    40                              

Heart handfast in heart as they stood, "Look thither,"
Did he whisper? "Look forth from the flowers to the sea;
For the foam-flowers endure when the rose-blossoms wither,
And men that love lightly may die—but we?"
And the same wind sang and the same waves whiten’d,
And or ever the garden’s last petals were shed,
In the lips that had whisper’d, the eyes that had lighten’d,
Love was dead.

Or they lov’d their life through, and then went whither?
And were one to the end—but what end who knows?                         50
Love deep as the sea as a rose must wither,
As the rose-red seaweed that mocks the rose.
Shall the dead take thought for the dead to love them?
What love was ever as deep as a grave?
They are loveless now as the grass above them
Or the wave.

All are at one now, roses and lovers,
Not known of the cliffs and the fields and the sea.
Not a breath of the time that has been hovers
In the air now soft with a summer to be.                                               60
Not a breath shall there sweeten the seasons hereafter
of the flowers or the lovers that laugh now or weep,
When, as they that are free now of weeping and laughter,
We shall sleep.

Here death may deal not again forever;
Here change may come not till all change end.
From the graves they have made they shall rise up never,
Who have left nought living to ravage and rend.
Earth, stones, and thorns of the wild ground growing,
While the sun and the rain live, these shall be;                                    70
Till a last wind’s breath upon all these blowing
Roll the sea.

Till the slow sea rise and the sheer cliff crumble,
Till terrace and meadow the deep gulfs drink,
Till the strength of the waves of the high tides humble
The fields that lessen, the rocks that shrink,
Here now in his triumph where all things falter,
Stretch’d out on the spoils that his own hand spread,
As a god self-slain on his own strange altar,
Death lies dead.

(cf. <http://www.bartleby.com/246/775.html>)

This poem, of Algernon Charles Swinburne, belongs to "Poems and Ballads, second series" 1878. It is composed of 10 stanzas of 8 lines each one. The main theme is the bleakness of nature, a desolate and dispeopled landscape, where the sea, the wind and the sun are the only "inhabitants".In the first stanza, the poet places and presents the garden, he begins from a big perspective to arrive at the "ghost of a garden"; that is to say, this garden there was, but now it is only the imagination of the poet that can reconstruct what was there, because now everything is dead.

The garden is surrounded by rocks, thorns and weed, and these nouns only suggest a desolate and ghostly landscape. It seems a small garden towards the majesty of the sea, that encloses it. But in the second stanza we can read "fields" and "long lone land" that can suggest a bigger landscape.

Human being appears in the second stanza, presenting by words like "step" or "word, but the use of an hypothetical sentence suggests that anyone has gone in this garden, because "  Would a ghost not rise at the strange guest’s hand?", so it is impossible a human presence in this lifeless place, there are only the wind and the sea.

In the third stanza, the poet seems to reveal the reason of this desolation, it was the Time that devastated everything, except the thorns, the rocks, the wind and the weeds which live through the destroying effect of the time.

In the fourth stanza life is impossible; the comparison of the heart of a dead man with the dried seed plots also explains why neither the nightingale can sing, because like a dead man is the garden, so any kind of life is possible, just the sun and the rain populate this bleak landscape "all the year long".

Following the reading of the poem, I have noticed, how the poet increases the kind of negative adjectives like gaunt, barren and bleak, in order to stress the bleakness of this garden and finally he affirms that "life seems barren as death", and he tries to imagine how could be this place if there was life, lovers, men who laughed and wept but now there is only the wind.

In the sixth stanza, there is a dialogue, maybe "he" is the wind, and "we" is the wind and the Sea, so the dialogue is between the sea and the wind, the only inhabitants of this landscape. They talk about how everything dies, and consequently love that enlightened everything, dies.

In the following stanza, the death of flowers erases love and the death doesn’t care of the other dead, and although love is deep as the sea, it has to die. In my opinion, the natural forces that populate this landscape are separated from nature and men, so they could be interpreted as divine forces in the view of a pantheistic vision of nature.

In the last three stanzas, there is a change, like a rebirth, a breath of summer arrives and wakes up everything, men and flowers and now they laugh, live and weep, and the wind and the sea can sleep, death disappears, "from the graves they have made they shall rise up never", the sun and the rain take the place of the wind and the sea, and everything lives, the sea erases the death as a "god self-slain" and death can only die.

This poem is about the cyclical time, of the seasons and nature, all this dead is unavoidable, anyway a negative vision is predominant through the poem, and I agree with a religious interpretation of the sea, the sun and wind that are responsible of life and death in the earth, I think it is a pantheistic vision of nature, and in this case, Swinburne follows the same ideas of the romantic poets.

(cf. < http://www.victorianweb.org/authors/swinburne/johnson8.html> and personal opinion)



-Swinburne’s A forsaken garden under www.bartleby.com homepage
Home: www.bartleby.com 20/04/2007

Absence in Swinburne's "The Forsaken Garden" by Adrienne Johnson
< http://www.victorianweb.org/authors/swinburne/johnson8.html>
Home:www.victorianweb.org 21/04/2007

1. Conclusion by Mora Vives Maria Carmen http://mural.uv.es/mamovi3/collective3
2. The Thirties by Lozano Arago Sara http://mural.uv.es/saloa/collective3.html
3. Poem in October by Mármol Rodríguez M. Elena http://mural.uv.es/memaro2/thirdpapercol.html
4. The Victorian Poetry-Alfred, Lord Tennyson by Sanchis Garcia-Astilleros Inmaculada C
5. Introduction by Sarrio Chaques Maria Aranzazu http://mural.uv.es/masacha/collective3.html
6. Georgian Poets- Rupert Brooke (The Soldier) by Sendra Ferragud Tania Maria http://mural.uv.es/tasenfe/rupertbrooke
7. William Butler Yeats by Tadevosyan Ani http://mural.uv.es/tadevosy/thirdcoll.html


 Academic year 2006/2007
© a.r.e.a./Dr.Vicente Forés López
© Annalisa Garofalo
Universitat de València Press