Donne’s Garden of Misery

Donne’s “Twickenham Garden” plays with references to the Garden of Eden and imagery of liquids, such as tears and wine, to illustrate the conflict the narrator is under by loving a married woman. Since Twickenham Garden was the “home of Lucy, Countess of Bedford, Donne’s patroness and friend,” the unattainable woman that the narrator loves in the poem is Lucy (Rumrich and Chaplin 29). The poem starts with “sighs” and “tears,” which can be both the signs of the coming spring with wind and rain, as well as the narrator’s own lamentation (Donne 29, l. 1). Donne uses “spring” as both the season and a body of water (29, l. 2). Spring is a happy season because it is the time of the fresh plant life, which is also the time of the narrator discovering his love for Lucy. As a body of water, the spring is the source of the water for a river or creek. The narrator is searching for the source of his unhappiness.

The narrator relates the Garden of Eden to Twickenham Garden by calling it “True Paradise,” because like in the story of Adam and Eve where Satan comes to destroy their bliss, a woeful character, the narrator himself, has come to the garden (30, l. 9). The narrator wishes the garden was frozen in “winter” so that the happiness of the garden would not torment him (30, l. 10). In relation to winter, it would have been better for the narrator’s love to be perpetually frozen, and for the rains of spring to not have bloomed his love, because it will always be unrequited. The narrator returns to the imagery of tears by wishing he was a “stone fountain weeping” (30, l. 18). The stone is an inanimate object and thus cannot feel yet is attributed with the action of crying, which is an expression of sadness. This juxtaposition serves to allude that even if the narrator was a “senseless piece,” he would not be able to get rid of his grief over his unrequited love (30, l. 14). Donne uses “senseless” as both not having physical senses, thus not being able to feel pain, and not having any sense or intelligence as to what is going on, being aware that the narrator loves this woman and not being able to do anything about it (30, l. 14).

In using “crystal vials,” the narrator associates his tears with being an alchemical solution to test the trueness of another’s love (30, l. 19). The narrator is elevating his love as the highest standard of true love by which all other loves should be compared. When the narrator says, “hearts do not in eyes shine,” he is saying that one cannot tell if someone’s love is true by looking in their eyes (30, l. 23). By discrediting another possible test of looking into one’s eyes into the window of their soul, the narrator is selling his tears as there is no other gain to be received from his love. Wine is made from fermented grapes, and so in the narrator saying his tears are “love’s wine” shows that his sorrow has festered by being unable to have his love fulfilled (30, l. 20). It is process to create wine, and the same applies to the creation of his tears. Since he has labored in producing his tears, he makes uses of them by selling them in vials. The narrator’s love is unrequited because Lucy is faithful to her husband as “none is true but she” (30, l. 26). Where other women would be unfaithful and have an affair with the narrator, his love is made more painful by Lucy’s trueness.

Donne, John. “Twickenham Garden.” Seventeenth Century British Poetry. Ed. John P. Rumrich and Gregory Chaplin. New York: Norton, 2006. 29-30. Print.

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