As you may have gathered from my recent post on Wordsworth’s ‘Daffodils’, Spring is already nudging its way to the forefront here in Whanganui, and the first sunny Sunday afternoon saw me blissfully out pottering in the garden. Years ago as a child I read the second to last verse of Dorothy Frances Gurney’s ‘God’s Garden’ on a garden ornament and, enchanted, committed it to memory. Those lines return to me frequently whenever I have the chance to get out and enjoy my own little slice of paradise.
The Lord God planted a garden
In the first white days of the world,
And He set there an angel warden
In a garment of light enfurled.
So near to the peace of Heaven,
That the hawk might nest with the wren,
For there in the cool of the even
God walked with the first of men.
And I dream that these garden-closes
With their shade and their sun-flecked sod
And their lilies and bowers of roses,
Were laid by the hand of God.
The kiss of the sun for pardon,
The song of the birds for mirth,–
One is nearer God’s heart in a garden
Than anywhere else on earth.
For He broke it for us in a garden
Under the olive-trees
Where the angel of strength was the warden
And the soul of the world found ease.
Dorothy Frances Gurney (1858-1932) is little known today, and the second to last verse of this lovely poem is often quoted alone and unattributed, but she was the daughter and wife of Anglican clergymen, a convert to Catholicism with her husband in 1919, and a writer of both poems and hymns.