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THE GARDENER’S DAUGHTER


Poem about the present.
There are no references to the Empire, Asia, India, chivalry.
It was first published in 1842 in “Poems”. It belongs to a group of texts which Tennyson called “The English Idylls”. They are about nature, the countryside and the celebration of values of England, Englishness. Nature is a container of Englishness. It is manmade: modified by civilisation.
There is a celebration of Englishness in everyday life.
If Tennyson concentrates on England from inside, Robert browning concentrates on England from outside England. “Home Thoughts, from abroad” is about England which is symbolized by its nature and nostalgia for the past. (always Victorian period).
An Englishman describes the English countryside and the woman he falls in love with.
It’s a narrative poem because it tells a story, but it’s also a Victorian type of poem, a dramatic monologue which is spoken in 1st person by a character who is not the poet and who speaks to an audience and reveals his feelings, memories.
It’s a love story. The protagonist is a painter who falls in love with the gardener’s daughter who lives in a house in the countryside, away from the city, but not too far. The painter narrates how 1 day together with a friend he sets out on a walk from the town to go into the countryside and see this girl who has been described as the perfect woman for him. They reach the house and in the middle of the garden there is the girl named Rose (symbolic flower of England) working in the garden. The painter begins to court her and the courtship ends in marriage and a happy life together. But then Rose dies and the artist in retrospect tells their story.
The narrative is simple. The idyll is post-romantic and post-Wordsworthian.
There is lyrical balance

1st section:
Tennyson underlines the fact that the 2 artists live in a city, they are dwellers.

2nd section:
Description of the friend Eustace.

3rd section:
The garden is away from the city, but it’s not completely separated from it. There are both elements of connection (bridge) and of separation (grass, river. The river combines elements of the countryside (flowers) and of the commerce (berge) so the river itself is a combination of conjunction and opposition.

4th section:
Description of the rural environment (picture). NB: “Hedges” refers to the English countryside where the land is divided into fields surrounded by hedges. The picture is like the Garden of Eden: nature is completely in harmony. The panorama is seen while walking -> it reminds us of W. Wordsworth, who introduced walking into the countryside as a poetic motif (so experiencing nature by going into Nature). Moreover, all these elements are quintessentially English: the grazing cattle, the trees, the birds, the hedges and the element of stillness (which underlines the distance from the city and the noise).

5th section:
First sight of Rose. She’s dressed in white; her dress is simple but elegant. She has an arm raised up and she’s working: she actively contributes to the creation of this garden. NB: accumulation of roses. The garden has the connotations of ORDER, WORK & BEAUTY. These are PRINCIPLES OF ENGLISHNESS that Tennyson puts into a garden. There are more values: TRANQUILLITY, BALANCE & HARMONY.

6th section:
The speaker describes his courtship; she accepts his love and returns it. They are merged in completion and create a family. Rose dies and the painter paints a portrait of his wife.

This idyll is the celebration of the true essence of Englishness as a shared code of values, a general sense of identity which he found in the countryside. Every time the painter goes back to the city, he brings flowers with him that is to say that the countryside influences the city -> the true values have to be transplanted back into the city. The 2 dimensions are separate and interconnected and Tennyson seems to say that people living in cities need to be fed by the positive influences coming from the rural England. The painter and Rose are representative of 2 dimensions that Tennyson saw in contrast and the necessity to find a interconnection between the 2.
di Valentina Ligabue
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