Verse > Anthologies > Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. > The Oxford Book of English Verse
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CONTENTS · BIBLIOGRAPHIC RECORD
Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. 1919. The Oxford Book of English Verse: 1250–1900.
  
Elizabeth Barrett Browning. 1806–1861
  
679. The Deserted Garden
  
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 vanish'd quite;         5
And wheresoe'er had struck the spade, 
The greenest grasses Nature laid, 
  To sanctify her right. 
 
I call'd the place my wilderness, 
For no one enter'd there but I.  10
The sheep look'd in, the grass to espy, 
  And pass'd it ne'ertheless. 
 
The trees were interwoven wild, 
And spread their boughs enough about 
To keep both sheep and shepherd out,  15
  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.  20
 
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,  25
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,  30
Has blush'd beside them at the voice 
  That liken'd her to such. 
 
Or these, to make a diadem, 
She often may have pluck'd and twined; 
Half-smiling as it came to mind,  35
  That few would look at them. 
 
O, 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!—  40
 
Nor thought that gardener (full of scorns 
For men unlearn'd and simple phrase) 
A child would bring it all its praise, 
  By creeping through the thorns! 
 
To me upon my low moss seat,  45
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:  50
Because the garden was deserted, 
  The blither place for me! 
 
Friends, blame me not! a narrow ken 
Hath childhood 'twixt the sun and sward: 
We draw the moral afterward—  55
  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.  60
 
Nor he nor I did e'er incline 
To peck or pluck the blossoms white:— 
How should I know but that they might 
  Lead lives as glad as mine? 
 
To make my hermit-home complete,  65
I brought clear 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)  70
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,  75
  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.  80
 
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  85
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,  90
I laugh'd unto myself and thought, 
  'The time will pass away.' 
 
And still I laugh'd, and did not fear 
But that, whene'er was pass'd away 
The childish time, some happier play  95
  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! 100
 
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 wiser, meeker thoughts are given, 105
And I have learnt to lift my face, 
Reminded how earth's greenest place 
  The colour draws from heaven,— 
 
It something saith for earthly pain, 
But more for heavenly promise free, 110
That I who was, would shrink to be 
  That happy child again. 
 
 
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