Peter Montgomery wrote (2/9/03)
> Given that they occur at the start,
> are they redolent with echoes of Eden?
I hadn't considered that explicitly, but now that you mention it, that could
indeed be the effect. In fact, expanding on your point, there is a
progression of "gardens" in 'Burial of the Dead' that may imply, if not a
'fall' from Eden, at least a journey from happiness into the desert:
1) First garden:
"Summer surprised us, coming over the Starnbergersee
With a shower of rain; we stopped in the colonnade,
And went on in sunlight, into the Hofgarten,"
Here the narrator is physically with his partner. They are both alive. The
incident is told as an unfolding story, a narrative.
2) Second garden:
"--Yet when we came back, late, from the hyacinth garden"
Here the passage is told as an "inner dialog", a private memory. The partner
is more physically distant from the narrator than in the Hofgarten, where the
partner was a flesh-and-blood companion, not just a memory.
30 Third garden:
"There I saw one I knew, and stopped him, crying 'Stetson!
'You who were with me in the ships at Mylae!
'That corpse you planted last year in your garden,
'Has it begun to sprout? Will it bloom this year? "
Here the partner is spoken about in third person. The narrator can only call
out to Stetson (a third party) about "that corpse" (whom I take to be the
person who died, the same person with the narrator in the colonnade and, in
memory, in the hyacinth garden). So now the partner is physically unavailable
to the narrator, and isn't even "alive" in the narrator's recollections: he's
just "that corpse". In other words, the 'gardens' in 'Burial of the Dead'
chart a progression of losing contact with a beloved person, starting with
time spent with them on earth, progressing to reliving moments with them in
your private memories, to "losing them" as they fade further away and become
Of course, in "What the thunder said", we get one more garden:
"After the frosty silence in the gardens"
which opens up the possibility of something coming "after" this loss, as the
narrator ties his personal love and loss into a larger context of love of
God. But we're getting too far away from the main point if I start bringing
Christ and resurrection and redemption into this post.
-- Steve --