Come Into The Garden, Maud: (Part I) - Summary & Analysis

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Come into the garden, Maud,
For the black bat, night, has flown,
Come into the garden, Maud,
I am here at the gate alone;
And the woodbine spices are wafted abroad,
And the musk of the rose is blown.

For a breeze of morning moves,
And the planet of Love is on high,
Beginning to faint in the light that she loves
On a bed of daffodil sky,
To faint in the light of the sun she loves,
To faint in his light, and to die.

All night have the roses heard
The flute, violin, bassoon;
All night has the casement jessamine stirr'd
To the dancers dancing in tune;
Till a silence fell with the waking bird,
And a hush with the setting moon.

I said to the lily, "There is but one,
With whom she has heart to be gay.
When will the dancers leave her alone?
She is weary of dance and play."
Now half to the setting moon are gone,
And half to the rising day;
Low on the sand and loud on the stone
The last wheel echoes away.

I said to the rose, "The brief night goes
In babble and revel and wine.
O young lord-lover, what sighs are those,
For one that will never be thine?
But mine, but mine," so I swore to the rose, "For ever and ever, mine."

And the soul of the rose went into my blood,
As the music clash'd in the hall;
And long by the garden lake I stood,
For I heard your rivulet fall
From the lake to the meadow and on to the wood,
Our wood, that is dearer than all;

From the meadow your walks have left so sweet
That whenever a March-wind sighs
He sets the jewel-print of your feet
In violets blue as your eyes,
To the woody hollows in which we meet
And the valleys of Paradise. 

The slender acacia would not shake
One long milk-bloom on the tree;
The white lake-blossom fell into the lake As the pimpernel dozed on the lea;
But the rose was awake all night for your sake, Knowing your promise to me;
The lilies and roses were all awake, They sigh'd for the dawn and thee.

Queen rose of the rosebud garden of girls,
Come hither, the dances are done,
In gloss of satin and glimmer of pearls, Queen lily and rose in one;
Shine out, little head sunning over with curls, To the flowers, and be their sun.

There has fallen a splendid tear
From the passion-flower at the gate.
She is coming, my dove, my dear;
She is coming, my life, my fate.
The red rose cries, "She is near, she is near;" And the white rose weeps, "She is late;" 
The larkspur listens, "I hear, I hear"
And the lily whispers, "I wait."

She is coming, my own, my sweet;
Were it ever so airy a head,
My heart would hear her and beat,
Were it earth in an earthy bed;
My dust would hear her and beat,
Had I lain for a century dead,
Would start and tremble under her feet,
And blossom in purple and red.

Summary and Analysis

      There is a big dance, and the lover is waiting outside the Hall in the garden for Maud. It is here that this lovely lyric, one of the most famous by Tennyson is uttered.

      'Come into the garden Maud' is a splendid lyric in which the hero's passion for his beloved, Maud, is expressed in the form of one long conceit. The lover, as he waits for his beloved to come and meet him secretly in her garden attributes his own feelings of eager expectancy and deep love for Maud to all the flowers that grow in the garden around him.

      The poem opens with the description of the morning conveyed in two stanzas. Then follow stanzas in which the lover describes how, as he waited for Maud during the night, he heard the sound of dancing and music coming from the hall where she danced, how she shared with the rose the secret that she did not like all this revelry and that she did not like his rival who danced with her and signed for her, but that she would be happy only in his company. 

      This is followed by a description of the lover's yearning for his beloved as he waits and the happy associations of their meetings which come up before his heart; like him he feels, the flowers also bear this longing in their heart.

      The tenth stanza gives a dramatic turn to the poem, because the whole garden is shown to have changed as Maud draws near. Like the lover, every flower reacts strongly to her coming in its own individual way. The eleventh stanza then forms an impassioned close to the poem, for it sets forth the beautiful idea that at the touch of the beloved's feet even the dust of the lover would sprout forth into flowers even if he were living buried in his grave for a hundred years.

      "This song from Maud", observes Langbaum, "is more effective when sung than when spoken. The frequent irregularities in the rhythm give scope to the musician, but as they have usually no correspondence with the nature of the subject they have an awkward effect upon the reading — sometimes however sense and rhythm do correspond as in 15, where the movement of the dancers is clearly suggested. The words too, as befits a song, are pretty rather than powerful, except the magnificent hyperbole of the last stanza which is surely out of place among these pretty fancies".

      The whole poem is based on the conceit that the flowers, the lover, long for Maud. It is based on what Ruskin called "the pathetic fallacy" — that is, the attribution of human qualities to things of nature. In this poem the flowers are described as walking, weeping, crying, shedding tears, drooping and listening. The lover speaks, to the rose and the lily and shares his innermost feelings with them. Thus everything in the garden is endowed with life because the hero himself feels like that. The hero's mood and emotion is transferred to flowers — it seems to him that the flowers are no less eager for Maud than he is. The song is a beautiful example of Tennyson's treatment of Nature. The whole garden is here presented before us in minute detail. The different flowers that grow are named and described. They feel sad and elated like human beings. They are thus coloured by the onlooker's mood.

      The poem is full of conceits, and fancies. Indeed, it is based on the fancy of the poet rather than his imagination. The pathetic fallacy itself is a long-drawn out conceit. The last stanza has the most striking of all conceits — the lover feels that even the dust of his dead body in the grave would burst into flowers if Maud were to touch it with her feet.

      Throughout the poem the poet makes clever use of consonant and vowel sounds. He repeats a selected number of letters to produce the desired effect — for example, the I, m and n. sounds in the following stanza:—

The slender acacia would not shake
One long milk-bloom on the tree;
The white lake-blossom fell into the lake
As the pimpernel dozed on the lea.

      Come into the Garden satisfies the main requirement of lyric poetry, namely, the requirement of emotional intensity. Tennyson had a sensitive temperament though not so sensitive as that of Shelley or of Burns. Then Tennyson has the technical skill to successfully imprison, in words, the feelings of his heart. He is a great musician. Take for example:

All night have the roses heard
The flute, violist, bassoons;
All the night has the casement jessamine stirred
To the dancers dancing in tune;

      The above lines illustrate how Tennyson creates effects by the choice of letters. He brings in soft and delicate sounds, to the exclusion of harsh and indelicate ones. With the single exception of Shelley no other English poet has such skill in poetic melody.

      Many great poets have tried to create flower-passages, but none has succeeded so well as Tennyson. Milton has that famous flower-passage in Lycidas:

Bring rather primrose that forsaken dies,
The tufted crow-toe and pale jessamine,
The white pink and the pansy freak'd with jet,
The glowing violet,
The musk-rose, and the well-attir'd wood bine,
With cowslip wan...

      Milton's is indeed a marvellous description but one great criticism against it is that it bring together flowers from all the countries and belonging to varying seasons. Nowhere and never can all these flowers be found together. Tennyson's passage is, however, true to the country and the season. All the flowers, mentioned in the song belong to the English summer. A critic has rightly called Tennyson as the master of English Botany. In fact, Tennyson used to have, note-book in hand, from village to village and record his observations. It is natural that his descriptions of nature should be true to reality.

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