Garden of Love
Revision Notes on Blake's poem 'Garden of Love'....
Songs of Experience THE GARDEN OF LOVE In ‘The Garden of Love’, Blake shows that from day one of any person’s life, nothing remains uniform. That life is always in a state of change, disarray, and inconsistency. Blake demonstrates this by bringing you to a state of realisation and shock of the sentimental meaning behind the church and nature surroundings. He accomplishes this task thoroughly by using many different poetic forms such as symbolism allusions and imagery. Blake’s main objective is to show how lives inevitable changes. That life no matter how one may remember it, whether it be as a child, adult, or elder, it will not remain constant. This is shown by telling of a life experience. He speaks of a garden that is beautiful and pure, ‘that so many sweet flowers bore’. We understand how it was a place of sanctuary for him in his youth. This allusion of his ‘Garden of Love’ is that of Eden imagery. ‘And binding with briars my joys and desires’, creates the allusion to Christ on the cross. It suggests that the actions of people in which they believe to be virtuous and moral, may indeed be an act of devastation and destruction. Whatever the case may be, the narrator has lost something or someone of great and dear importance to him, and no one is there for him, not even the church. The joy the narrator used to find can now only be found through the compassion of his own God, nature. A garden is a place of peace, where nature, God, and him, are one; such as the Garden of Eden. It is the symbolic meaning of loosing a loved one, or loved ones. In addition, the organised church did not help people of all types. As a result, the Garden of Eden and the Garden of Love became extinct and untouchable for all. Blake states, ‘And the gates of this Chapel were shut’, insinuating that the church had not helped or comforted him, but destroyed this equilibrium of peace that used to be present in this environment. This visual and internal image helps to, very straight forwardly, represent death. By using this imagery, he shows that even from day one of human existence that things evolve and mutate. A retrospection of the way life used to be; a taboo feeling that used to breathe freely through their veins.
SOURCE: Phillip Allan Updates – As/A level student guide, Songs of Innocence and Experience by William Blake
An interesting interpretation: Titles of poems are often derived from actual content of the passage, though the title itself may not reflect the poem’s tone and meaning. That deems quite true with Blake’ poem ‘The Garden of Love,’ as the symbolic name of the poem does not describe
what one expects to read after addressing the title. Instead, ‘The Garden of Love’ is a figurative designation to a man’s past of promiscuity and guiltless pleasure.
Blake ventures back to a place he has obviously been before and attempts to return to his past of immoral behaviour after having gone through some sort of transition. The imagery created around the religious symbols reveals Blake’s transition was the commitment to marriage before his return to the playground and the graves are metaphors for the loss of previous lovers. With the images of a cemetery and the binding actions of the priests that symbolise the action of marriage, Blake suggests that he regret of making it. Instead, the reader is revealed a metaphorical description of the regrets of the poet’s pledge to matrimony. Where he was once allowed to play liberally now stands an inalterable symbol of his commitment to monogamy. This poem proves Blake’s idea of love to be incongruous to the conventional analysis of love. The only change so far is the chapel in the midst, a perceptible demonstration of marriage. Though Blake has already expressed that he favours his life of free love over marriage in the first stanza, he still approaches the Chapel that represents his lamented promise to his spouse within the second stanza. He uses strong expression in describing the actions of the priests, as they make it impossible for him to experience his ‘joys and desires’. The ‘flowers’ he refers to are the sex objects he found refuge in on his playing green. The garden itself and playing green represent Blake’s belief that the freedom and lack of responsibility before matrimony are much more inviting than the commitment he has made to his wife. The priests are dressed in black, which embodies Blake’s opinion of the rules of his marriage laid out by the church. Blake found the gates closed because he conceives marriage as a shutting down if independence and freedom. The tombstones represent his overall inability to return to a life of innocent sexual pleasure and the death of his excitement to do so. The symbolism and tone prove Blake’s concept of love and marriage quite contradictory to the commonly accepted view of love. This poem is Blake’s individual relation of a venture into a past of promiscuity and adulterous sex. The script upon the shut door read, ‘Thou shalt not’ and immediately reminds both the reader of God’s commandment to never commit adultery. Another interpretation:
You come across a young man walking by the garden and he becomes fascinated. As you read on, you notice some things about the ‘garden.’ You notice there is a Chapel built on a field where he used to play on as a child. Where the flowers were originally supposed to be, he found tombstones instead and priests in their black gowns engaged in their services. The poem, consisting of three stanzas, had an original rhyme scheme that was apparent in all of poems before 1880 but it did not contain a sonnet. It is a literal poem described what had become of his Church ground.
Falling out of love can be very depressing and this man has been hurt by a woman and there is nothing left to do besides mourn his loss. We begin to notice how bad he is hurting from his loss and how he is drawn to this ‘Garden of Love’ that is filled with tombstones. He notices that not only have the tombstones replaced the flowers, but, it has replaced the entire ‘garden’ and this can also be related to how his heart is filled with sorrow from the loss. The Chapel that was built on the midst of green symbolises the love of his life. The midst of green where he once used to play symbolises how well he knew the person and how much it has changed. The tombstones where the flowers should be represented the cold where the warmth used to be in his heart. There was no dialogue in the poem and the diction was filled with imagery like, for example, ‘the tombstones where the flowers should be’, ‘Priests with their black gowns’, and ‘the Chapel on the midst of green’. He doesn’t want to move on, he wants to stay with this person. Since he can’t, he turns to the ‘Garden of Love’ which is filled with tombstones. The Chapel was closed down with a sign on the door that said, ‘Thou shall not,’ explaining how he didn’t want his love to end but there was really nothing he can do about it. While walking through the ‘garden’ he feels like he is at home because 'the garden’ experienced pain and mistreatment, as well.
SOURCE : http://www.megaessays.com/viewpaper/46599.html
A comparison of ‘The Garden of Love’ and ‘The Echoing Green’ Both poems use a combination of iambic and anapaestic feet but to different effect. ‘The Echoing Green’ as a light and tripping double measure, but ‘The Garden of Love’ adopts the heavier trimester, suiting the irony of the poem and the harshness of its content. The opening line is misleading, because the phrase ‘Garden of Love’ has joyful connotations. However, Blake’s poems are rarely as simple as they seem. The presence of the chapel (conventionally a positive image) is ambiguous. Its position in the centre of the green suggests its dominance, and it acts as the antithesis of the childhood ‘play’ depicted in ‘The Echoing Green’ and ‘Nurse’s Song’. Indeed, Blake hated organised religion, and the poem explores some of the restrictions he saw and detested in the church. The chapel is not therefore the welcoming and open place that we might expect, but is imposing and forbidding. The gates are shut to prevent approach (like the spears, thorns and horns of the preceding poems) and the chapel announces itself with the prohibition ‘Thou shalt not’. The emphasis is on restriction and the curtailment of (innocent) freedom. Turning to the garden, the speaker finds that the Eden-like paradise of ‘The Echoing Green’ has gone. Blake illustrates this by the lack of flowers – instead of containing the blooming beauty of life. The land is filled with graves, symbolic of the death of innocence, but also, perhaps, the graves of those who previously played on the green. Blake saw organised religion as being profoundly at odds with the spirit of freedom and life. The disturbing image of the ‘priests in black gowns…walking their rounds’ makes them seem more like policemen of morality than priests and the negative internal thymes in the final two lines of the poem (‘gowns’ and ‘rounds’, ‘briars’ and ‘desires’). This has a deadening effect on the restrictive effect of the priests. It is clear that ‘joy’ and ‘desires’ have no place in the priests’ perception of life.
NB: Look up library book – William Blake, the poems, analysing texts ----------------------------------SOURCE:: York Notes SOURCE
The opening stanza describes the poet’s return to an environment that he always associated with happiness. There he discovered that a church had been built where he used to play. The church is forbidding. It has grave commands written over it door, and this, in its turn, is closed against visitors. In the third stanza, we are told that where flowers once grew there are now only the signs of death. The new gardeners are priests who cultivate not joy, but misery. There is little difficulty in making an interpretation of the image used by Blake in this poem. He accuses the Church of interfering in a very negative manner with morality. He suggests its emphasis on the negative letter of the law by the nature of
the commandments it has engraved on its entrance. The innocence of true love and happiness has been vitiated by the imposition of negative experience. Blake’s picture of the predatory priests is horrid enough, but in another version of this poem, he is even more vituperative. In speaking of the chapel he describes the entry of Satan: Vomiting his passion out On the bread and on the wine. The grimness is thumped out in that last stanza with the ominous rhetoric evidenced there in the repetition of ‘And’ and the explosive consonantal sounds that are to be found in that stanza. The imagery is much more explicit in intention but it does encourage us by that very act to look again at his intention in the images used in the first three poems of this group.