Among many other arts and excellencies which you enjoy, I am glad to find this favourite of mine the most predominant, that you choose this for your wife, though you have hundreds of other arts for your concubines; though you know them, and beget sons upon them all (to which you are rich enough to allow great legacies), yet the issue of this seems to be designed by you to the main of the estate; you have taken most pleasure in it, and bestowed most charges upon its education, and I doubt not to see that book which you are pleased to promise to the world, and of which you have given us a large earnest in your calendar, as accomplished as anything can be expected from an extraordinary wit and no ordinary expenses and a long experience. I know nobody that possesses more private happiness than you do in your garden, and yet no man who makes his happiness more public by a free communication of the art and knowledge of it to others. All that I myself am able yet to do is only to recommend to mankind the search of that felicity which you instruct them how to find and to enjoy.
Happy art thou whom God does bless With the full choice of thine own happiness; And happier yet, because thou'rt blessed With prudence how to choose the best. In books and gardens thou hast placed aright, - Things which thou well dost understand, And both dost make with thy laborious hand - Thy noble, innocent delight, And in thy virtuous wife, where thou again dost meet Both pleasures more refined and sweet: The fairest garden in her looks, And in her mind the wisest books. Oh! who would change these soft, yet solid joys, For empty shows and senseless noise, And all which rank ambition breeds, Which seem such beauteous flowers, and are such poisonous weeds!
When God did man to his own likeness make, As much as clay, though of the purest kind By the Great Potter's art refined, Could the Divine impression take, He thought it fit to place him where A kind of heaven, too, did appear, As far as earth could such a likeness bear. That Man no happiness might want, Which earth to her first master could afford, He did a garden for him plant By the quick hand of his omnipotent word, As the chief help and joy of human life, He gave him the first gift; first, even, before a wife.
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.