This week’s choices are all on the subject of gardens and what grows in them.

Rudyard Kipling draws parallels between a great garden and the British Empire in another of his poems with a double meaning, “The Glory of the Garden”.

Vachel Lindsay raises a smile as he celebrates the irrepressibility of “The Dandelion”.

Emily Dickinson explores the rich sensations offered by “The Grass”.

National Poetry Day

National Poetry Day is on Thursday 1 October this year, and is a 24-hour share-a-poem festival encouraging us all to share a poem with a friend, a neighbour, family or at work. “Tell Me The Truth About Life: A National Poetry Day Anthology” was published last year to celebrate the 25th anniversary of National Poetry Day and is full of great poems, some of which I have covered in the weeks I have been writing these posts and some which are more recent. It has introduced me to two new poems that I really love, “Take This Pen” by Tony Walsh and “Kindness” by Naomi Shihab Nye.

In “Take This Pen”, Tony Walsh (AKA Longfella) offers to every child and adult the permission to write and love poetry. The poem has a wonderful rhythm and I was delighted to discover his performance of the poem for National Poetry Day last year on YouTube. Tony Walsh wrote “This Is The Place” about his home town of Manchester and performed it at the vigil following the bomb attack at the Manchester Arena. You can watch this passionate performance on YouTube (see the link in the comments). There is a kind of link to Vachel Lindsay since he, like Longfella, performed his poems live to audiences (in fact, he made sufficient money to live on).

In “Kindness”, Naomi Shihab Nye explores the relationship between kindness and sorrow, and the fact that one cannot understand kindness properly without experiencing sorrow. I feel the truth of this, knowing that the kindnesses shown to me by my family and friends have truly lightened the sorrows of the last few years. The “Be Kind” mantra that became popular after the suicide of Caroline Flack carries a genuine force, and kindness to others takes so little effort.


  • Watch Tony Walsh’s performance of “Take This Pen” on YouTube.
  • Watch his performance of “This Is The Place” at the Vigil of Peace in Manchester on YouTube.
  • Watch Naomi Shihab Nye’s performance of “Kindness” on YouTube.

Poem 73. The Glory of the Garden

Our England is a garden, and such gardens are not made
By singing:—‘Oh, how beautiful!’ and sitting in the shade,

Rudyard Kipling (1865—1936)
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 will 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 hand 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!

Another poem by Kipling with a double meaning. Ostensibly about the ways in which we can all contribute to the upkeep of a garden, it also suggests that everyone has a part to play in the upkeep of a great Empire, without overtly saying so.

I like this poem because of its rhymes and its rhythm and the message that cooperation and collaboration contribute to a greater enterprise, whether that’s a great garden or an empire.


Poem 74. The Dandelion

Each day is coronation time,
You have no humble hours.

Vachel Lindsay (1879—1931)

O dandelion, rich and haughty,
King of village flowers!
Each day is coronation time,
You have no humble hours.
I like to see you bring a troop
To beat the blue-grass spears,
To scorn the lawn-mower that would be
Like fate’s triumphant shears.
Your yellow heads are cut away,
It seems your reign is o’er.
By noon you raise a sea of stars
More golden than before.

This poem amuses me because of its truth, and because Vachel Lindsay likens the dandelion to a king with a retinue who overcomes the lawn-mower (a brilliant metaphor for the shears of the Fate who cuts the thread of life) to raise thousands of new flowers.

Vachel Lindsay was a different sort of poet, preferring to declaim and perform his poems on the stage with considerable presence. If you have seen “Dead Poet’s Society”, another of his poems is performed at the end of the meeting in the cave: the lines from “Congo”.

The scene has an undeniable power with its enthusiastic performance of a few lines from a poem which is full of fantastic rhythms, but which conveys an indefensibly ignorant and racist view of black people considering that the poem was written in 1912, just when the foundations of the Harlem Renaissance were being laid.


  • Watch the “Congo” chant scene from Dead Poet’s Society on YouTube.
  • Read about the Harlem Renaissance on Wikipedia.

Poem 75. The Grass

And even when it dies, to pass
In odors so divine,
As lowly spices gone to sleep,
Or amulets of pine.

Emily Elizabeth Dickinson (1830—1886)

The grass so little has to do, —
A sphere of simple green,
With only butterflies to brood,
And bees to entertain,

And stir all day to pretty tunes
The breezes fetch along,
And hold the sunshine in its lap
And bow to everything;

And thread the dews all night, like pearls,
And make itself so fine, —
A duchess were too common
For such a noticing.

And even when it dies, to pass
In odors so divine,
As lowly spices gone to sleep,
Or amulets of pine.

And then to dwell in sovereign barns,
And dream the days away, —
The grass so little has to do,
I wish I were the hay!

Emily Dickinson summons up the idea of a lawn delightfully here, with the butterflies and bees flying above it, and the way grass of a certain length moves in a breeze, and the delicacy of tiny dew-drops that form on the blades overnight. She envies its power—even when it is dead, its aroma is potent.