As a sometime gardener (although others in our household are more committed gardeners) I have always loved Kipling’s poem, and I believe it tells you everything you need to know about gardening.
The poem was read for us by our friend Penny at our wedding many years ago, and since then I have recited it from memory on occasions for the benefit of our assisted pilgrims at Lourdes, much to their enjoyment, I think.
A key them of the poem is its power of gardening to level (no pun intended) society and those who are are involved in the garden. Kipling begins by referring to the ‘stately views’ of English gardens, presumably a reference to the many great estates of England which in those days (and still) regard the garden as a key component of the estate.
Before long, though, Kipling has extended the province of the garden from the highest in the land to the everyday people working hard and constantly in the garden to bring it to its full beauty. In so doing, Kipling reminds us that ‘gardens are not made / By singing:—“Oh, how beautiful!” and sitting in the shade’. Quite the contrary, they take a lot of hard work throughout the year by people of all skills and none.
I find myself drawn to Kipling’s views about the peace and tranquility of the garden. For me, the one thing everyone should know about gardening is that ‘it abideth not in words’. With his references to Adam at the end of the poem, Kipling brings together the values of beauty, tradition, hard work, achievement and spirituality on which the garden is founded – and that’s all everyone needs to know about gardening!
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.
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 dungpits and the tanks,
The rollers, carts and drain-pipes, with the barrows and the planks.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
If you want to explore further the therapeutic aspect of gardening, look at the following:
Research and sources: