Robert Frost's "A Girl's Garden"

Updated on November 20, 2017
Maya Shedd Temple profile image

After I fell in love with Walter de la Mare's "Silver" in Mrs. Edna Pickett's sophomore English class, circa 1962, poetry became my passion.

Robert Frost

Source

Introduction and Text of Poem, "A Girl's Garden"

This fine, little narrative, "A Girl's Garden," reveals that the Frostian speaker enjoys pure narrative offered just for the fun of it. The speaker is recounting an old woman's experience with a youthful endeavor in gardening on her family's farm.

The poem features 12 quatrains displayed in four movements, each quatrain features the rime scheme, ABCB.

(Please note: The incorrect spelling, "rhyme," was erroneously introduced into English by Dr. Samuel Johnson. For my explanation for using only the correct form, please see "Rime vs Rhyme: An Unfortunate Error.")

A Girl's Garden

A neighbor of mine in the village
Likes to tell how one spring
When she was a girl on the farm, she did
A childlike thing.

One day she asked her father
To give her a garden plot
To plant and tend and reap herself,
And he said, "Why not?"

In casting about for a corner
He thought of an idle bit
Of walled-off ground where a shop had stood,
And he said, "Just it."

And he said, "That ought to make you
An ideal one-girl farm,
And give you a chance to put some strength
On your slim-jim arm."

It was not enough of a garden
Her father said, to plow;
So she had to work it all by hand,
But she don't mind now.

She wheeled the dung in a wheelbarrow
Along a stretch of road;
But she always ran away and left
Her not-nice load,

And hid from anyone passing.
And then she begged the seed.
She says she thinks she planted one
Of all things but weed.

A hill each of potatoes,
Radishes, lettuce, peas,
Tomatoes, beets, beans, pumpkins, corn,
And even fruit trees.

And yes, she has long mistrusted
That a cider-apple
In bearing there today is hers,
Or at least may be.

Her crop was a miscellany
When all was said and done,
A little bit of everything,
A great deal of none.

Now when she sees in the village
How village things go,
Just when it seems to come in right,
She says, "I know!

"It's as when I was a farmer..."
Oh never by way of advice!
And she never sins by telling the tale
To the same person twice.

Reading of "A Girl's Garden"

Commentary

First Movement: A Conversation With a Neighbor

A neighbor of mine in the village
Likes to tell how one spring
When she was a girl on the farm, she did
A childlike thing.

One day she asked her father
To give her a garden plot
To plant and tend and reap herself,
And he said, "Why not?"

In casting about for a corner
He thought of an idle bit
Of walled-off ground where a shop had stood,
And he said, "Just it."

The first movement finds Robert Frost's speaker in "A Girl's Garden" relating a conversation he remembers with his neighbor in the village. The speaker reports that the woman has always been quite fond of narrating an experience from her childhood about "a childlike thing" she did when she lived on a farm.

While still a child, the woman one fine spring season, requests from her father some land upon which she might grow a garden. The father eagerly agrees, and in the next few days, searches his farm for just the right plot of land for his daughter's endeavor.

After finding the little plot of land he deemed just right for his daughter's nurturing experiment, the father tells his daughter about his choice. The few acres had at one time sported a shop and it was walled off from the road. The father thus deemed this little plot a fine place for his daughter's experiment in gardening.

Second Movement: Her Father Hands Over a Plot

And he said, "That ought to make you
An ideal one-girl farm,
And give you a chance to put some strength
On your slim-jim arm."

It was not enough of a garden
Her father said, to plow;
So she had to work it all by hand,
But she don't mind now.

She wheeled the dung in a wheelbarrow
Along a stretch of road;
But she always ran away and left
Her not-nice load,

After the father reports his choice to his daughter, telling her that the plot of land should be just right for her "one-girl farm," he informs her that because the plot is too small to plow, she will have to dig the dirt and get it ready by hand.

This work would be good for her; it would give her strong arms. The daughter was delighted to have the plot of land and was very enthusiastic about starting the work. She did not mind having to ready the soil by hand.

The woman reports in her narrative that she transported the necessary items to her garden plot with a wheelbarrow. She adds a comic element, saying the smell of the dung fertilizer made her run away.

Third Movement: A Wide Variety of Plants

And hid from anyone passing.
And then she begged the seed.
She says she thinks she planted one
Of all things but weed.

A hill each of potatoes,
Radishes, lettuce, peas,
Tomatoes, beets, beans, pumpkins, corn,
And even fruit trees.

And yes, she has long mistrusted
That a cider-apple
In bearing there today is hers,
Or at least may be.

The woman reports that she would then go hide, so no one could observe her running away from the dung smell. She next imparts the information about what she planted.

The story-teller reckons that she planted one of everything, except weeds. She then lists her plants: "potatoes, radishes, lettuce, peas / Tomatoes, beets, beans, pumpkins, corn, / And even fruit trees."

She further reckons that she planted quite a lot of vegetables and fruits for such a small plot of farmland. She recounts that today a "cider apple tree" is growing there, and she harbors the suspicion that the tree might be the result of her farming experiment that year.

Fourth Movement: The Poet's Kind of Storyteller

Her crop was a miscellany
When all was said and done,
A little bit of everything,
A great deal of none.

Now when she sees in the village
How village things go,
Just when it seems to come in right,
She says, "I know!

"It's as when I was a farmer..."
Oh never by way of advice!
And she never sins by telling the tale
To the same person twice.

The story-teller reports that she was able to harvest quite a variety of crops, though not very much of each one. Now when she observes the useful, abundant gardens the folks in the village have grown on their small plots of land around their homes, she remembers her own experience of growing a garden on her father's farm when she was just a young girl.

The poet/speaker who is recounting the old woman's story is amazed that this woman is not the kind of repetitive story-teller that so many seniors of nostalgia are. He says that though he has heard her tell that story many times, she never repeats the same story to the same village twice. And the old gal never condescends to be offering advice, she merely adds her quips as fond memories. The poet/speaker seems to admire that kind of storyteller.

© 2017 Linda Sue Grimes

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    • Maya Shedd Temple profile image
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      Linda Sue Grimes 11 days ago from Spring Hill, TN

      Robert Frost's talent as a poet is undeniable. His deceptively simple verse has garnered many misinterpretations that have caused him to aver that many of his works, such as "The Road Not Taken," are "very tricky poem[s]." But the attitude of his speakers is also always intense and mostly unconventional. He creates images that stick in the mind of the culture, such as the mending wall, birches, the snowy evening, those two tramps, the busy ants, and of course the forking road.

      Thank you, Ram, for your response. Blessings for the day!

    • profile image

      Ram 11 days ago

      Nice work

    • Maya Shedd Temple profile image
      Author

      Linda Sue Grimes 5 months ago from Spring Hill, TN

      Hi, Louise--

      Wow, I'm surprised you've never read any of Frost's poems before. He's probably the most famous American poet and his poems appear in a lot of places. Oh, well, glad to have introduced you to him He's a pretty good poet. Have a great day!

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      Louise Powles 5 months ago from Norfolk, England

      I've never read any of his poems before, but I enjoyed listening to this poem. I'll search for more of his poem now, thankyou.

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