‘The Glory of the Garden’ by Rudyard Kipling was first published in A School History of England in 1911. It is an eight stanza poem that is separated into sets of four lines, known as quatrains. These quatrains conform to a consistent rhyme scheme of AABB CCDD, and so on, changing end sounds as the poet saw fit. The lines are also very consistent in their syllable number.
It is impossible to ignore the religious connotations inherent in this poem. Kipling was clearly interested in Genesis and the idea of the first humans as gardeners. This is seen most obviously in the last stanza as he directly addresses the idea of a God who created humankind to serve as his gardeners and find glory through the process.
The poem begins with the speaker describing England as a garden with “stately views”. It has beautiful shrubs and peacocks, but there are also tool sheds and more practical structures. In amongst these sites, a visitor will see the gardeners, every one of which has a different job that is suited perfectly for them. Some might tend to the growing plants while others move soil and sand. They are also pleasant, quiet, and ready to do as they are asks.
These are the hardworking citizens of the country, doing what they can to contribute to the greater good of their homeland. Kipling’s speaker also makes sure to emphasize the fact that everyone has a job and is therefore occupied by the garden. There is no one who is sitting around and relaxes, everyone contributes.
The last stanzas are directed at the reader or listener, telling them that they too need to make sure that they’re doing everything they can for the country. It might be hard work at first, but eventually, one’s hands will grow strong and their backs, painless. They too will be brought into the glory of the garden, and therefore the glory of God.
The latter, alliteration, occurs when words are used in succession, or at least appear close together, and begin with the same letter. A great example is part of the refrain, which is also the title, “the Glory of the Garden”.
Kipling also makes use of anaphora, or the repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of multiple lines, usually in succession. For example, the phrase “And some” in the fourth stanza. It begins two lines in a row, forcing them to build upon one another. There is another example in the sixth stanza with the phrase, “There’s not a” beginning the first and second lines.
Another important technique that is commonly used in poetry is enjambment. This occurs when a line is cut off before its natural stopping point. It forces a reader down to the next line, and the next, quickly. One has to move forward in order to comfortably resolve a phrase or sentence. For example, the end of the first line of the fifth stanza is enjambed because a reader has to move down to the second line to find out how the gardens are “not made”.
Analysis of The Glory of the Garden
Our England is a garden that is full of stately views,
Of borders, beds and shrubberies and lawns and avenues,
With statues on the terraces and peacocks strutting by;
But the Glory of the Garden lies in more than meets the eye.
In the first stanza of this poem, the speaker begins by referring very simply to England as a garden. It is “full of stately views,” meaning that from a number of different places a visitor or resident can see wonderful and beautiful things. Kipling uses simple language to describes the features of these views. There are “statues on the terraces and peacocks strutting by”. The peacock in the garden is a very obvious symbol of wealth that also connects this piece to gardening as a pleasure afforded to those in high society.
After giving the reader a few details about what one can physically see in the garden, he takes it further. There is more to the garden than “meets the eye”.
For where the old thick laurels grow, along the thin red wall,
You’ll find the tool- and potting-sheds which are the heart of all
The cold-frames and the hot-houses, the dung-pits and the tanks,
The rollers, carts, and drain-pipes, with the barrows and the planks.
In the second stanza he adds that behind all the beautiful vine-covered walls and around the corners, a visitor can find the “tool- and potting-sheds”. These serve as the garden’s heart as it is from there that life is organized.
He goes on, describing how there are other structures one can see too. Such as “cold-frames and the hot-houses”. There are less attractive sights too, the “dung-pits and the tanks”.
And there you’ll see the gardeners, the men and ‘prentice boys
Told off to do as they are bid and do it without noise ;
For, except when seeds are planted and we shout to scare the birds,
The Glory of the Garden it abideth not in words.
The third stanza, for the first time, introduces humans into the mix. There are the “gardeners,” those that tend to and make sure the garden remains, glorious. A reader shouldn’t forget that this entire poem is an extended metaphor that speaks on England as a place of wonder in which beautiful things are tended to and grow. Therefore, the gardeners represent all the working people of the city, each with a different task.
They “do as they are bid and do it without noise”. This suggests that everyone in England does their part happily, without complaint. The only time anyone makes any noise is when they have to shout to scare off the birds. When they’re called upon to protect their flowers and crops they do so without hesitation.
Also at the end of this stanza, it becomes clear that Kipling is going to make use of a refrain this is one of seven times he repeats the phrase “Glory of the Garden”.
And some can pot begonias and some can bud a rose,
And some are hardly fit to trust with anything that grows ;
But they can roll and trim the lawns and sift the sand and loam,
For the Glory of the Garden occupieth all who come.
The fourth stanza begins with an example of anaphora as the speaker lists out more of what can be found in the garden. There are gardeners, some of whom can “pot begonias”, and others “can bud a rose”. He emphasizes the different skill sets of the gardeners who tend to England’s garden, making sure that is clear that some are good at helping things grow, while others are not. They are “hardly fit to trust with anything that grows”.
It is important to note that not everything is perfect in the garden. It is not a perfect Eden nor are those who tend the plants are not without fault. But, that doesn’t mean they can’t contribute to space. Those who can’t grow can take care of the lawns and handle the harder, more foundational materials such as “sand and loam”.
Our England is a garden, and such gardens are not made
By singing:-” Oh, how beautiful,” and sitting in the shade
While better men than we go out and start their working lives
At grubbing weeds from gravel-paths with broken dinner-knives.
The phrase “Our England is a garden” comes back into the poem at this point. Kipling is reminding the reader of how all these places, gardeners, and their creations are rooted in a real country and are there to represent real people working towards the common good. The work they do, he states, is not simple. Their country was not made by singing and “sitting in the shade”. There is not a contingent of men in England that sits and relaxes while others go out and do the work, or at least there shouldn’t be.
There’s not a pair of legs so thin, there’s not a head so thick,
There’s not a hand so weak and white, nor yet a heart so sick
But it can find some needful job that’s crying to be done,
For the Glory of the Garden glorifieth every one.
Picking up where he left off in the fifth stanza, in stanza six the speaker reemphasizes that everyone works. There is no one in England who is jobless or is unable to contribute to the greater good of the country. Even those who are “weak and white” or sick “can find some needful” or much needed “job that’s crying to be done”. Through this work, they are glorified.
Then seek your job with thankfulness and work till further orders,
If it’s only netting strawberries or killing slugs on borders;
And when your back stops aching and your hands begin to harden,
You will find yourself a partner In the Glory of the Garden.
In the seventh stanza, the speaker turns towards the listener and tells them that it is their purpose to “seek your job with thankfulness and work till further orders”. He believes that after a long period of hard work, the pain in your hands and back will stop, and “you” will become unified with “the Glory of the Garden”. The listener, just like everyone else in England, has a role to play.
Oh, Adam was a gardener, and God who made him sees
That half a proper gardener’s work is done upon his knees,
So when your work is finished, you can wash your hands and pray
For the Glory of the Garden that it may not pass away!
And the Glory of the Garden it shall never pass away !
Kipling makes religious connotations present throughout the poem, but they are more obvious in the last stanza. He uses “Adam” as “a gardener” as an example. God made him, the speaker says, in order to glorify his world and work to improve it. This same God knows that most of a real gardener’s work is done upon their knees.
It is only after the work is done that one can get up, wash their hands, and pray that everything they’ve done does not go to waste. The glory of the garden, hopefully, will last forever. The last line is repeated twice, like a prayer.