Happy 2013 everyone. I’ll love to share some of my thoughts on the work of my favourite poet, Rudyard Kipling. This poem was written in 1911, just a year into the reign of King George V and 3 years to the conflict known as the Great War. Queen Victoria who had passed on about a decade before, would have found it hard to believe her grown up grand children would soon be plunged in war. England was enjoying prosperity fuelled by riches from her empire where “the sun never set” Victorian morality was the order of the day. Kipling, who was the apostle of empire building, showed his concern in this poem about its maintenance, yes the empire had been built but he warned against complacency so it could be sustained. He starts by describing the beauty of England comparing it to a garden, but he is careful to say “the Glory of the garden is more than meets the eye” and it also “abideth not in words” he described the tools and implements used by gardeners to create and maintain the garden’s beauty, they did not just spend time talking about and praising its beauty, and “resting in the shade” or complaining about their problems; they worked hard to get the garden to its present state. In seeing England as a garden he saw that everyone had their part to play in improving her and there was always something for everyone to do like, rolling and trimming the lawns and sifting the sand and loam, because “the glory of the garden occupies all who come” Kipling implores his countrymen to take personal responsibility for the garden because all in all it reflects them, they share of the glory or shame depending on its state. He concludes by writing that the garden is built by working, but it is established by praying. The Glory of the Garden was penned 102 years ago but the words are timeless and true, whether we be in the UK, Nigeria, or the US we need work hard and smart to build our garden and we should not forget to pray so what we build is worthy, and strong enough to last beyond us.
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 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!
Rudyard Kipling (1911)