In a Formal Garden
The maze leads round and round, and then divides;
But this garden’s mainly squared, with parterres shorn
On top, and back and sides. The distant rides
Which fan each way to show the dusk and dawn
Are centred on a hermit’s cave. He’s gone
On sickness’ leave a hundred years, but still
His stillness stays. The children on the lawn
Are statues grouped around their midday meal.
Outside, the wild wood waits, coiled like a cat,
Claws poised, to swat, take that, take that, take that.
A blackbird scuffles in the leaves, then runs
Across the path. A ring-dove tunes its song.
The sparrows squall. A corn-fed pigeon suns
Its autumn corpulence. There’s nothing wrong.
Oh well, all’s well, or so the augurs say
Who give us daily news of wind and worse;
The summer and the crowds have gone away
And we are here, almost alone. Reverse
The picture, and you’d find out spring: the leaves,
Now brown, were green – except, of course, they weren’t.
You take a colour-check, discover lives
Are upside down. The things we thought we learnt
Turn out to be perpetually awry.
The hillside makes this garden slightly squiff
And it’s not eighteenth century at all,
But almost new. Prospectus is a lie
And summerhouse a fake. Untruth is rife.
Why should we care? It’s still the same. All’s well.