The Deserted Garden


Browning delights in this poem's reminiscence of her own secret, wild garden and lost childhood. It might inspire you to re-read Frances Hodgson Burnett's The Secret Garden.
Vincent van Gogh, Daubigny's Garden, 1890
    I mind me in the days departed,
    How often underneath the sun
    With childish bounds I used to run
    To a garden long deserted.

    The beds and walks were vanished quite;
    And wheresoe'er had struck the spade,
    The greenest grasses Nature laid
    To sanctify her right.

    I called the place my wilderness,
    For no one entered there but I;
    The sheep looked in, the grass to espy,
    And passed it ne'ertheless.

    The trees were interwoven wild,
    And spread their boughs enough about
    To keep both sheep and shepherd out,
    But not a happy child.

    Adventurous joy it was for me!
    I crept beneath the boughs, and found
    A circle smooth of mossy ground
    Beneath a poplar tree.

    Old garden rose-trees hedged it in,
    Bedropt with roses waxen-white
    Well satisfied with dew and light
    And careless to be seen.

    Long years ago it might befall,
    When all the garden flowers were trim,
    The grave old gardener prided him
    On these the most of all.

    Some lady, stately overmuch,
    Here moving with a silken noise,
    Has blushed beside them at the voice
    That likened her to such.

    And these, to make a diadem,
    She often may have plucked and twined,
    Half-smiling as it came to mind
    That few would look at them.

    Oh, little thought that lady proud,
    A child would watch her fair white rose,
    When buried lay her whiter brows,
    And silk was changed for shroud!

    Nor thought that gardener, (full of scorns
    For men unlearned and simple phrase,)
    A child would bring it all its praise
    By creeping through the thorns!

    To me upon my low moss seat,
    Though never a dream the roses sent
    Of science or love's compliment,
    I ween they smelt as sweet.

    It did not move my grief to see
    The trace of human step departed:
    Because the garden was deserted,
    The blither place for me!

    Friends, blame me not! a narrow ken
    Has childhood 'twixt the sun and sward;
    We draw the moral afterward,
    We feel the gladness then.

    And gladdest hours for me did glide
    In silence at the rose-tree wall:
    A thrush made gladness musical
    Upon the other side.

    Nor he nor I did e'er incline
    To peck or pluck the blossoms white;
    How should I know but roses might
    Lead lives as glad as mine?

    To make my hermit-home complete,
    I brought dear water from the spring
    Praised in its own low murmuring,
    And cresses glossy wet.

    And so, I thought, my likeness grew
    (Without the melancholy tale)
    To "Gentle Hermit of the Dale,"
    And Angelina too.

    For oft I read within my nook
    Such minstrel stories; till the breeze
    Made sounds poetic in the trees,
    And then I shut the book.

    If I shut this wherein I write
    I hear no more the wind athwart
    Those trees, nor feel that childish heart
    Delighting in delight.

    My childhood from my life is parted,
    My footstep from the moss which drew
    Its fairy circle round: anew
    The garden is deserted.

    Another thrush may there rehearse
    The madrigals which sweetest are;
    No more for me! myself afar
    Do sing a sadder verse.

    Ah me, ah me! when erst I lay
    In that child's-nest so greenly wrought,
    I laughed unto myself and thought
    "The time will pass away."

    And still I laughed, and did not fear
    But that, whene'er was past away
    The childish time, some happier play
    My womanhood would cheer.

    I knew the time would pass away,
    And yet, beside the rose-tree wall,
    Dear God, how seldom, if at all,
    Did I look up to pray!

    The time is past; and now that grows
    The cypress high among the trees,
    And I behold white sepulchres
    As well as the white rose,

    When graver, meeker thoughts are given,
    And I have learnt to lift my face,
    Reminded how earth's greenest place
    The color draws from heaven,

    It something saith for earthly pain,
    But more for Heavenly promise free,
    That I who was, would shrink to be
    That happy child again.

The Deserted Garden was featured as The Short Story of the Day on Tue, Mar 06, 2018

This poem is featured in our selection of 100 Great Poems.


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