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Robert Frost's "God's Garden"

Robert Frost remains America's most noted and beloved poet. His classic works are widely anthologized and studied in the nation's schools.

Introduction and Text of "God's Garden"

This early Robert Frost poem, "God's Garden," written circa 1890, offers an interpretive dramatization of the Genesis narrative from the Old Testament of the Holy Bible. The Genesis creation myth is highly symbolic. This speaker appears to be offering guidance in spirituality to erring humankind.

God's Garden

God made a beauteous garden
With lovely flowers strewn,
But one straight, narrow pathway
That was not overgrown.
And to this beauteous garden
He brought mankind to live,
And said: "To you, my children,
These lovely flowers I give.
Prune ye my vines and fig trees,
With care my flowerets tend,
But keep the pathway open
Your home is at the end."

Then came another master,
Who did not love mankind,
And planted on the pathway
Gold flowers for them to find.
And mankind saw the bright flowers,
That, glittering in the sum,
Quite hid the thorns of avarice
That poison blood and bone;
And far off many wandered,
And when life's night came on,
They were seeking gold flowers,
Lost, helpless and alone.

O, cease to heed the glamour
That blinds your foolish eyes,
Look upward to the glitter
Of stars in God's clear skies.
Their ways are pure and harmless
And will not lead astray,
But aid your erring footsteps
To keep the narrow way.
And when the sun shines brightly
Tend flowers that God has given
And keep the pathway open
That leads you on to heaven.

Reading of "God's Garden"

Commentary

This poem employs an extended allusion to the Garden of Eden myth from the Judeo-Christian tradition.

First Stanza: Allusion to Garden of Eden

God made a beauteous garden
With lovely flowers strown,
But one straight, narrow pathway
That was not overgrown.
And to this beauteous garden
He brought mankind to live,
And said: "To you, my children,
These lovely flowers I give.
Prune ye my vines and fig trees,
With care my flowerets tend,
But keep the pathway open
Your home is at the end."

The speaker commences, "God made a beauteous garden / With lovely flowers strewn," an image comporting with what readers have come to expect of the depiction of the original garden. The speaker then offers an original thought stating that God put in the garden "one straight, narrow pathway" which is without the beauteous decoration of flower or tree.

After God creates the beauteous garden with lovely flowers and the one straight, clear pathway, God adds the further creation of humankind— "mankind to live"—directing humankind to care for the "vines and fig trees" and to watch over the flowers.

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However, the human beings were also directed to "keep the pathway open / Your home is at the end." Instead of commanding humans not to eat the forbidden fruit of the tree in the midst of the garden as is in the original Genesis story, in Frost's version, God only instructs them to "keep the pathway open." It is the same command, just phrased differently.

Second Stanza: A Wrong Turn

Then came another master,
Who did not love mankind,
And planted on the pathway
Gold flowers for them to find.
And mankind saw the bright flowers,
That, glitt'ring in the sum,
Quite hid the thorns of av'rice
That poison blood and bone;
And far off many wandered,
And when life's night came on,
They were seeking gold flowers,
Lost, helpless and alone.

The speaker then makes the claim that an additional "master" who "did not love mankind" then came to the garden and "planted on the pathway / Gold flowers for them to find." This evil one wanted to distract the human beings from the original instruction to keep open the pathway; thus he planted distracting, alluring "gold" flowers.

Thus humankind began scampering down the wrong path searching for the empty, deceptive "gold" flowers, instead of obediently tending the luscious fruit trees and beautiful flowers they were originally instructed to tend. The "gold flowers" "hid the thorns of av'rice / That poison blood and bone" and would prove to be their downfall.

By failing to follow God's original command, humankind became embroiled in material experiences that caused their souls to suffer helplessness and loneliness, as they suffer the loss of soul knowledge.

The speaker describes that state of loss as "when life's night came on." The humans continued to indulge in sense pleasures, failing to work to keep their soul connected to its Creator. They thus lost the most valuable commodity of spirituality.

Third Stanza: To Seek the Genuine

O, cease to heed the glamour
That blinds your foolish eyes,
Look upward to the glitter
Of stars in God's clear skies.
Their ways are pure and harmless
And will not lead astray,
But aid your erring footsteps
To keep the narrow way.
And when the sun shines brightly
Tend flowers that God has given
And keep the pathway open
That leads you on to heaven.

The last stanza finds the speaker exhorting his listeners to abandon the fake "glamour / That blinds your foolish eyes." The speaker hopes to show others that by accepting the fool's gold of fake flowers, they fail to raise their eyes to the heavens to observe, "the stars of God's clear skies."

The metaphorical stars in "God's clear skies" reflect the original command of God to stay on the narrow road of right living. Avoiding the glittering deception of "gold flowers" which offer only vacuous sense experience allows the human being the time and space to walk the open pathway that leads to the soul's true home in heaven.

Rober Frost U. S. Stamp

© 2016 Linda Sue Grimes

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