Notes on the text
(by Peter Keating)
The stately Homes of England,Hemans offers a highly sentimental, idealised view of English home life, from the stately to the humble, and although not carrying the overtly political message that is so important to Kipling, she does - rather oddly given her very different mood - seem to at least look in that direction by prefacing her poem with an epigram taken from Sir Walter Scott’s Marmion (1808):
How beautiful they stand!
Amidst their tall ancestral trees,
O’er all the pleasant land.
Where’s the coward that would not dareThe nearest Hemans herself gets to admitting that her English homes may at some time require more than God’s protection comes in the final stanza:
To fight for such a land?
The free, fair Homes of England!Even here, the attitude is pious, with nothing of Kipling’s passionate moral concern or his profound understanding of the dangers that complacent patriotism can bring. “The Glory of the Garden” opens with the strikingly communal 'Our England', which makes it clear that the poem is be about values which the poet wishes to share with his readers. There is no sense of a view of England being imposed from outside or above. If the reader does not respond positively to Kipling’s appeal, then the purpose of the poem collapses. The personal, inner nature of the values is stressed by the final line in the first stanza in which Kipling warns that the true glory of the garden is to be found in more than meets the eye. In other words, the reader is to be prepared for a point-of-view that is totally different from that of Felicia Hemans.
Long, long in hut and hall,
May hearts of native proof be rear’d
To guard each hallowed wall!
The Stately Homes of England,Coward may also have had “The Glory of the Garden” in mind, as he most certainly did in a later lyric. This is “There are Bad Times just around the Corner” (1952), one of the very best of the several songs of disillusionment that Coward addressed to a depressed post-Second-World-War Britain. Its main theme is that the old brave glorious Britain seems to have gone for good. Kipling’s outlook in “The Glory of the Garden” is now being criticised in much the same way as he himself had once criticised Hemans’s “The Homes of England”:
How beautiful they stand,
To prove the upper classes
Have still the upper hand.
While begging Kipling’s pardon[Line 5] laurels. Evergreen trees with dark green glossy leaves, most famously the bay. Because of their heavy presence they are usually planted on the outskirts of a garden, as here where they are placed along the thin red (i.e. red-brick) wall. There are two other possible allusions in this line that should be mentioned. Both are problematic. Laurels are traditionally regarded as a symbol of success or victory, though that would seem unlikely to apply here, given the very mundane, unheroic nature of the phrase old thick laurels. But Kipling’s use of thin red to describe the garden wall is much more puzzling. It evokes inevitably the phrase 'thin red line' with its strong military connection. It was coined by Sir William Howard Russell during the Crimean War, and then used by Kipling himself in his barrack-room ballad “Tommy.” For more details, see the notes on “Tommy” by Roger Ayers, in particular the note to line 22. If Kipling did intend thin red wall to contain a military allusion, the reason for him doing so is obscure. At the same time it is difficult to imagine him being unaware of the emotional associations the words were likely to evoke.
There’s one thing we know for sure
If England is a garden
We ought to have more manure.
All things bright and beautifulIt may be that Kipling had this hymn specifically in mind. After all, “The Glory of the Garden,” along with all the other poems in A School History were also written with the aim of instilling into young children a very different set of values and overthrowing the views expressed in hymns like “All Things Bright and Beauty.” He must have felt that this ambition had to some extent between achieved, because on 11 October 1919 he proudly told André Chevrillon that “The Glory of the Garden” had become ‘a sort of school recitation piece’. Letters 4, p. 580.
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful,
The Lord God made them all.
Stafford: Villain! Thy father was a plasterer;[Lines 30-33] That half …upon his knees … wash your hands and pray…away! As has been made clear throughout the poem, Kipling’s call for people to sink to their knees and pray has little to do with conventional religious practice: he is simply asking that the same kind of devotion demanded by religious institutions be given to secular activities.
And thou thyself a shearman, art thou not?
Cade: And Adam was a gardener. (Act IV, ii,126-8).