How doth my garden growe?

by Sarah Bernstein

Whan Maye’s sonne bresteth fro Aprille’s shours,
And fro the erthe springen grene branches and swote flours,
Thanne of my gardin do ich ay mette
Day and night; al other thoghts dooth hit lette.
O Fortuna! O Seinte Fiacre!
Groweth my gardin by entente or aventure?
Whylom, in the Silurian Age – days of olde,
Long er myn yen dide the gardin first biholde –
Scolers seye thilke londe was under the See;
Sely, lusty creatures dide here daunce and pleye.
Swimme all day dide this joly companye
Til on a reef everich creature dide deye.
Manye hondred yeres syn han y-pass;
Certes noon wighte nolde here findeth solas.
Noon locus amoenus, noon paradyse terrestrye,
Thilke gardin conquered were by creping charlie,
Buckthorn, dent-de-lioun, and mustard of garleek.
To see swich foul weedes made my herte syke.
Long sith the heeth hadde swalwed the See,
My loothly gardin made me clepe, “weilawey!”
Lightly gan I to shape and devyse
A gardin of solas, delit and ese;
In my dremes, my thoghts and my herte,
I seigh sondry flours springen from the dirte.
Born in Engelond, I trowed maistrye
In the gardin were planted naturally,
Lyk the roses my fader hadde y-growe,
Eek the sedes my mooder hadde y-sowe.
Yet my flours and shrubbes were dede
Sone after I planted hem, maugree my heed.
Sikerly, my heritage hadde yeven me noghte,
Ne for the floodes of Wisconsin, ne for the droghte.
My swevenes gan ich amende.
Through books of auctoritee gan ich to wende.
Thus redde I on the Prince of Wales, the Cornish duc,
And lered I ful wel the sapience of his book.
Prince Charles, at Highgrove, six and twenty yeres agoon,
Desired a gardin. He hadde in ruin
A hortus conclusus y-founde at this hous;
Forthy, this worthy prince dide shape his rescus.
Leeren dide he to delve, threshe and composte,
To use the culter, and nurture his croppes, aldermost.
Now in thilke walled gardin he groweth garleek,
All manere of herbes, bene and greyn, onyon and leek.
Eek flours: marigold, prymerole, pansy,
Nasturtium, iris, lilie and dayesye.
Plesaunce for the yen and eek for the nose.
O swete Eglantyne! O swete Briar Rose!
On the ensample of Charles, dide I longe thynke:
A gardin groweth nat by nature, but by swynke.
The which somtyme I shoop oonly in fantasye,
Now I wroghte with my labour and housbondrye.
To the sonne, reyn, and soyle I am ententif.
I chees flours and trees mo hardy and native,
Which that thiveth in my londe I now woot:
Birch and whippletree, lungwort and wormwood,
Allium, ellebore and muchel roses Britoun.
Konnyng weex my delit and my imaginacioun.
Now my gardin groweth grene and fair, al nat parfit,
For ech yere as waxeth my gardin, so dooth my maistrye.
As quod Alisoun, the Wyf of Bath,
“Experience, though by noon auctoritee” hath
Taught myn sovereyn prince, and eke me,
Though ich nam of noon heigh degree.
(Ywis, the elder of my doghtren tweye
Studied horticulture at universitye,
Yet accord with Alisoun hath eke she.)
And on this matere, namo here shal I seye.