10 Classic Poems on Gardens and Gardening

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The idea of a garden, a cultivated enclosure, has always been important in poetic imagination. Whether real or symbolic, gardens and gardening are ripe with meaning. Find inspiration and beauty in these 10 classic poems about gardens.

01
of 10

William Shakespeare: The Gardener’s Speech from "Richard II" (1597)

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William Shakespeare (1564–April 23, 1616) wrote a number of plays about English royalty, including "Richard II." In this speech, a common gardener addresses the queen, giving voice to the commoners of the era. He criticizes the king for being an unjust ruler, using the garden as a metaphor for politics.

Excerpt:


"Go, bind thou up yon dangling apricocks,
Which, like unruly children, make their sire
Stoop with oppression of their prodigal weight:
Give some supportance to the bending twigs..."
02
of 10

Andrew Marvell: "The Mower, Against Gardens" (1681)

Andrew Marvell
Culture Club / Contributor 

Andrew Marvell (March 31, 1621–August 18, 1678) was an English poet who was best known during his lifetime for the political slant to his writing. This poem is from a series of related work about a mower, who laments the impact that humans have had on the environment and cautions readers to protect nature.

Excerpt:


"Luxurious man, to bring his vice in use,
Did after him the world seduce,
And from the fields the flowers and plants allure,
Where nature was most plain and pure..."
03
of 10

Samuel Taylor Coleridge: "This Lime Tree Bower My Prison" (1797)

Samuel Taylor Coleridge
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Samuel Taylor Coleridge (October 21, 1772–July 25, 1834) was a pioneer of the Romantic movement in poetry and literature in Great Britain. Coleridge often chose natural themes for the subjects of his poems, including this one, which may have been inspired by his friend and fellow poet William Wordsworth.

Excerpt:


"Well, they are gone, and here must I remain,
This lime-tree bower my prison! I have lost
Such beauties and such feelings, as had been
Most sweet to have remembrance..."
04
of 10

Elizabeth Barrett Browning: "The Deserted Garden" (1838)

Portrait Of Elizabeth Barrett Browning
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Elizabeth Barrett Browning (March 6, 1806–June 29, 1861) was an English poet who earned acclaim on both sides of the Atlantic for her writing. A child prodigy who began writing poems at age 6, Browning often found inspiration for her work in domestic life and family.

Excerpt:


"I mind me in the days departed,
How often underneath the sun
With childish bounds I used to run
To a garden long deserted..."
05
of 10

Matthew Arnold: "Lines Written in Kensington Gardens" (1852)

Matthew Arnold
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Matthew Arnold (December 24, 1822–​April 15, 1888) was an English educator, writer, and poet, who often found inspiration in social issues of his era. In this poem, however, he takes pleasure in the greenery of Kensington Gardens in London, a popular park.

Excerpt:


"In this lone, open glade I lie,
Screen'd by deep boughs on either hand;
And at its end, to stay the eye,
Those black-crown'd, red-boled pine-trees stand! ..."
06
of 10

Walt Whitman: "This Compost!" (from "Leaves of Grass," 1867 edition)

Walt Whitman
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Walt Whitman's (May 31, 1819–March 26, 1892) was an American writer and poet best known for his collection of poetry "Leaves of Grass," from which this poem is taken. Whitman found inspiration in the outdoors and the natural world and shared his experiences in his writing throughout his life.

Excerpt:


"Something startles me where I thought I was safest;
I withdraw from the still woods I loved;
I will not go now on the pastures to walk..."
07
of 10

Robert Louis Stevenson: "The Gardener" (1885)

Robert Louis Stevenson
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Robert Louis Stevenson (November 13, 1850–December 3, 1894) was a Scottish writer, poet, and artist, who was a literary celebrity during his lifetime. Although best known for thrillers like "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde," Stevenson also chose gentler subjects, especially for his poetry, such as this one about a garden and those who tend it.

Excerpt:


"The gardener does not love to talk.
He makes me keep the gravel walk;
And when he puts his tools away,
He locks the door and takes the key..."
08
of 10

Amy Lowell: "Behind a Wall" (1912)

Amy Lowell
Bettmann / Contributor

Amy Lowell (February 9, 1874–May 12, 1925) was an American poet who was noted for her free verse style of writing. Born into a prominent family, Lowell was a tireless advocate for and friend of other poets of the era. She was posthumously awarded the Pulitzer Prize for her poetry in 1926.

Excerpt:


"I own a solace shut within my heart,
A garden full of many a quaint delight
And warm with drowsy, poppied sunshine; bright
Flaming with lilies..."
09
of 10

Edna St. Vincent Millay: "Blight" (1917)

Edna St. Vincent Millay
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Edna St. Vincent Millay (February 22, 1892–October 19, 1950) was a Pulitzer Prize-winning American poet, playwright, and feminist. Her sonnets were celebrated by literary critics of the era. In this poem, she uses the metaphor of a blighted garden to explore negative emotion.


"Hard seeds of hate I planted
That should by now be grown,—
Rough stalks, and from thick stamens
A poisonous pollen blown..."
10
of 10

Robert Frost: "A Girl's Garden" (1920)

Robert Frost
Hulton Archive / Stringer 

Robert Frost (March 26, 1874–January 29, 1963) was one of the most famous poets in the U.S. in the 20th century. He became famous for his many poems chronicling life in rural New England and was honored with both a Pulitzer Prize and Congressional Gold Medal for his writing.

Excerpt:


"A neighbor of mine in the village
Likes to tell how one spring
When she was a girl on the farm, she did
A childlike thing."