22 May 2012

The greenness of gardens

After four therapeutic hours in the garden, weeding and pruning - refilling the compost bin, and putting all the woody prickly stuff in the Green Bin - I'm itching to get out there again. At last it was dry enough and (almost) warm enough to enjoy this encounter with tamed (?) Nature -
A small gardenit may be, but there's always a lot to do, somehow.

Which brings me to Andrew Marvell's "green thought in a green shade" - aka The Garden. Another memorable phrase in the poem is "this delicious solitude". In a little green book, an exhibition catalogue from 1989, it says: "Marvell was writing at a moment of tremendous social upheavel, at the time of the [English] Civil War, and in his poem The Garden he celebrates, with great wit and conscious artifice, the idea that a garden provides solace and refreshment for the spirit."

The exhibition was of the photographs of Paul Joyce and drawings of John Hubbard, made (separately) in the gardens of Abbotsbury in Dorset and Tresco in the Scilly Isles.
"Both artists respond to the particularity and tenacity of living things - the plants and trees which co-exist in these eclectic, man-made paradises. Each brings his own interests and preoccupations into the gardens, which offer an interlude for contemplation, becoming places of the mind, disturbing, ambiguous and fascinating. The exhibition is a conversation between two distinctive visions, using different visual means but above all it suggests the essential solitariness in the activity of looking closely at natural things. We can share a certain amount but in the direct experience of nature we are alone and very much ourselves."

(It's timely to happen upon this notion of solitary activity and looking closely, as this is exactly what I'm doing in my work on/with sonnets - yet until reading this, it wasn't something that I could put into words.)

In pre-digital days I cut out and kept lots of pictures of things, and newspaper cuttings, and slipped them into relevant books. This little book contains some items from Kew Magazine, one as recent as 2006 -
Another memorable book about "greenness" is an artist's book held in the Poetry Library - it consists of blank pages in various shades of green and is called "After Marvell".

If you like gardens, do go read the Marvell poem - you can find it illustrated and explained here. And for a virtual visit to a beautiful garden, here you can John Hubbard's garden in Dorset.

1 comment:

lisette said...

one of may favourite poems and a great comfort at times. i often thought of him when i escaped into the park at lunchtime from the toxic office!