| notes on the text
'They are; and BolingbrokeThe condition of a nation state, like that of a garden, depends on constant vigilance and work. Vegetation must be controlled, and weeds handled ruthlessly if they are not to destroy healthy plants. Richard II and Queen Isabel are forced to learn this lesson. So, in a very different Shakespearean context, is Hamlet:
Hath seized the wasteful king. O, what pity is it
That he had not so trimm’d and dress’d his land
As we this garden! We at time of year
Do wound the bark, the skin of our fruit- trees,
Lest, being over-proud in sap and blood,
With too much riches it confound itself;
Had he done so to great and growing men,
They might have liv’d to bear, and he to taste
Their fruits of duty. Superfluous branches
We lop away, that bearing boughs may live;
Had he done so, himself had borne the crown,
Which waste of idle hours hath quite thrown down.'
(Richard II, iii, iv, 54-66).
'How weary, stale, flat, and unprofitableKipling’s view in “The Glory of the Garden” is little different from that of Shakespeare, except that he is writing for a newly democratic age. This understanding guides his whole approach. He is not in the position of a medieval King who can deal with the situation by lopping off the heads of a few rebellious ‘weeds.’ Nor is it necessary for him to act out the part of melancholy Hamlet because Kipling knows all too well what is to be done. If everyone in society, high or low – and it is soon clear that Kipling’s own view of English society in the poem remains firmly hierarchical – can be persuaded to play a part in making sure that the garden does not become over-run with weeds, then ‘things rank and gross in nature’ will be unable to ‘possess it merely.’ If not, then England could become as ‘weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable’ as Denmark was to Hamlet.
Seem to me all the uses of this world!
Fie on’t, ah fie, ’tis an unweed’d garden
That grows to seed; things rank and gross in nature
Possess it merely.'
(Hamlet, I, ii, 133-7)