For God, the universal architect, 'T had been as easy to erect A Louvre, or Escurial, or a tower That might with heaven communication hold, As Babel vainly thought to do of old. He wanted not the skill or power, In the world's fabric those were shown, And the materials were all his own. But well he knew what place would best agree With innocence and with felicity; And we elsewhere still seek for them in vain. If any part of either yet remain, If any part of either we expect, This may our judgment in the search direct; God the first garden made, and the first city, Cain.
Oh, blessed shades! Oh, gentle, cool retreat From all the immoderate heat, In which the frantic world does burn and sweat! This does the lion-star, Ambition's rage; This Avarice, the dog-star's thirst assuage; Everywhere else their fatal power we see, They make and rule man's wretched destiny; They neither set nor disappear, But tyrannise o'er all the year; Whilst we ne'er feel their flame or influence here. The birds that dance from bough to bough, And sing above in every tree, Are not from fears and cares more free, Than we who lie, or sit, or walk below, And should by right be singers too. What prince's choir of music can excel That which within this shade does dwell, To which we nothing pay or give - They, like all other poets, live Without reward or thanks for their obliging pains. 'Tis well if they become not prey. The whistling winds add their less artful strains, And a grave base the murmuring fountains play. Nature does all this harmony bestow; But to our plants, art's music too, The pipe, theorbo, and guitar we owe; The lute itself, which once was green and mute, When Orpheus struck the inspired lute, The trees danced round, and understood By sympathy the voice of wood.
These are the spells that to kind sleep invite, And nothing does within resistance make; Which yet we moderately take; Who would not choose to be awake, While he's encompassed round with such delight; To the ear, the nose, the touch, the taste and sight? When Venus would her dear Ascanius keep A prisoner in the downy bands of sleep, She odorous herbs and flowers beneath him spread, As the most soft and sweetest bed; Not her own lap would more have charmed his head. Who that has reason and his smell Would not among roses and jasmine dwell, Rather than all his spirits choke, With exhalations of dirt and smoke, And all the uncleanness which does drown In pestilential clouds a populous town? The earth itself breathes better perfumes here, Than all the female men or women there, Not without cause, about them bear.
When Epicurus to the world had taught That pleasure was the chiefest good, (And was perhaps i' th' right, if rightly understood) His life he to his doctrine brought, And in a garden's shade that sovereign pleasure sought. Whoever a true epicure would be, May there find cheap and virtuous luxury. Vitellius his table, which did hold As many creatures as the Ark of old, That fiscal table, to which every day All countries did a constant tribute pay, Could nothing more delicious afford Than Nature's liberality, Helped with a little art and industry, Allows the meanest gardener's board. The wanton taste no fish or fowl can choose For which the grape or melon she would lose, Though all the inhabitants of sea and air Be listed in the glutton's bill of fare; Yet still the fruits of earth we see Placed the third storey high in all her luxury.
But with no sense the garden does comply, None courts or flatters, as it does the eye; When the great Hebrew king did almost strain The wondrous treasures of his wealth and brain His royal southern guest to entertain, Though, she on silver floors did tread, With bright Assyrian carpets on them spread To hide the metal's poverty; Though she looked up to roofs of gold, And nought around her could behold But silk and rich embroidery, And Babylonian tapestry, And wealthy Hiram's princely dye: Though Ophir's starry stones met everywhere her eye; Though she herself and her gay host were dressed With all the shining glories of the East; When lavish art her costly work had done; The honour and the prize of bravery Was by the Garden from the Palace won; And every rose and lily there did stand Better attired by Nature's hand: The case thus judged against the king we see, By one that would not be so rich, though wiser far than he.
Nor does this happy place only dispense Such various pleasures to the sense: Here health itself does live, That salt of life, which does to all a relish give, Its standing pleasure, and intrinsic wealth, The body's virtue, and the soul's good fortune, health. The tree life, when it in Eden stood, Did its immortal head to heaven rear; It lasted a tall cedar till the flood; Now a small thorny shrub it does appear; Nor will it thrive too everywhere: It always here is freshest seen, 'Tis only here an evergreen. If through the strong and beauteous fence Of temperance and innocence, And wholesome labours and a quiet mind, Any diseases passage find, They must not think here to assail A land unarmed, or without a guard; They must fight for it, and dispute it hard, Before they can prevail. Scarce any plant is growing here Which against death some weapon does not bear, Let cities boast that they provide For life the ornaments of pride; But 'tis the country and the field That furnish it with staff and shield.
Where does the wisdom and the power divine In a more bright and sweet reflection shine? Where do we finer strokes and colours see Of the Creator's real poetry, Than when we with attention look Upon the third day's volume of the book? If we could open and intend our eye, We all like Moses should espy Even in a bush the radiant Deity. But we despise these his inferior ways Though no less full of miracle and praise; Upon the flowers of heaven we gaze, The stars of earth no wonder in us raise, Though these perhaps do more than they The life of mankind sway. Although no part of mighty Nature be More stored with beauty, power, and mystery, Yet to encourage human industry, God has so ordered that no other part Such space and such dominion leaves for art.
We nowhere art do so triumphant see, As when it grafts or buds the tree; In other things we count it to excel, If it a docile scholar can appear To Nature, and but imitate her well: It over-rules, and is her master here. It imitates her Maker's power divine, And changes her sometimes, and sometimes does refine: It does, like grace, the fallen-tree restore To its blest state of Paradise before: Who would not joy to see his conquering hand O'er all the vegetable world command, And the wild giants of the wood receive What laws he's pleased to give? He bids the ill-natured crab produce The gentler apple's winy juice, The golden fruit that worthy is, Of Galatea's purple kiss; He does the savage hawthorn teach To bear the medlar and the pear; He bids the rustic plum to rear A noble trunk, and be a peach. Even Daphne's coyness he does mock, And weds the cherry to her stock, Though she refused Apollo's suit, Even she, that chaste and virgin tree, Now wonders at herself to see That she's a mother made, and blushes in her fruit.