William Blake

(28 November 1757 – 12 August 1827 / London)

The Garden of Love


I went to the Garden of Love,
And saw what I never had seen;
A Chapel was built in the midst,
Where I used to play on the green.

And the gates of this Chapel were shut
And 'Thou shalt not,' writ over the door;
So I turned to the Garden of Love
That so many sweet flowers bore.

And I saw it was filled with graves,
And tombstones where flowers should be;
And priests in black gowns were walking their rounds,
And binding with briars my joys and desires.

Submitted: Tuesday, December 31, 2002
Edited: Wednesday, September 18, 2013

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Comments about this poem (The Garden of Love by William Blake )

  • Freshman - 2,106 Points Hans Vr (2/20/2015 7:47:00 AM)

    Still today so many religious leaders suffer from the Thou shalt not- disease instead of preaching the huge message of love. Our world is craving for love, and still our leaders manage to destroy the wonderful garden of love that this world should be. Wonderful poem. I do not understand how the mean marks of this poem are anything lower a full 10 (Report) Reply

  • Bronze Star - 5,558 Points Lorraine Margueritte Gasrel Black (10/10/2014 4:59:00 PM)

    Does this mean Thou Shalt Not Love or was he disappointed with LOVE? or didn't find that place of happiness he so remembered? (Report) Reply

  • Gold Star - 6,992 Points Frank Avon (10/10/2014 1:44:00 PM)

    One of Blake's most characteristic poems, not as well known as others, such as 'The Tyger' or 'The Lamb, ' but perhaps even more important as a statement of his values. One might infer from a first reading of this poem that Blake was anti-religion. In fact, he was intensely religious. His visions and visionary poems always proceeded from his faith, from very early childhood on. He was, indeed, anti-institutional. He felt that most institutional churches had become precisely the sort of legalistic bodies that Jesus himself spoke against so adamantly.

    The Chapel in this poem stands for such institutions, in which 'Thou shalt not' predominates over 'Love thy neighbor as thyself.' The last two lines - longer than the others, with pronounced internal rhymes - may be one of Blake's most dramatic and engaging images: 'binding with briars my joys and desires.' As he says in another one of his well-known poems, 'The Divine Image, ' the truly godly values are 'mercy, pity, peace and love.'

    Personally, I wish that Blake's poems were taught in all churches, mosques, synagogues, and other religious institutions as well as in schools and families. Even young children will enjoy hearing them read. This would be a good one to start with. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 87 Points Gypsy Pain (10/10/2014 10:46:00 AM)

    I can see it all in my mind with my eyes closed, and why a church door would be locked and banned for any soul to enter.. This poem was beautiful sir, thank you for sharing it with me. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Sara Zeo (10/10/2013 10:40:00 AM)

    In this poem The Garden of Love the poet talks about how mans aesthatic desires are restricted by the religon. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 271 Points Jack Growden (10/10/2013 4:08:00 AM)

    Feel free to read, rate and comment on my work. Thanks: http: //www.poemhunter.com/jack-growden-2/ (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Deci Hernandez (10/10/2012 3:16:00 PM)

    How difficult is it to love God but not hate our brothers? I understand William's struggle with being absolved by church orthodoxy or lack of orthodoxy. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Deci Hernandez (10/10/2012 3:16:00 PM)

    How difficult is it to love God but not hate our brothers? I understand William's struggle with being absolved by church orthodoxy or unorthodoxy. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Deci Hernandez (10/10/2012 3:15:00 PM)

    How difficult is it to love God but not hate our brothers? I understand William's struggle with being absolved by church orthodoxy or unorthodoxy. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Kevin Straw (10/10/2012 2:51:00 PM)

    The center of this poem is the river. I learn from Wikipedia that “Roman theology presents Venus as the yielding, watery female principle, essential to the generation and balance of life.” Love with a capital “L” is Venus, or a personification of love. The river is no longer flowing to give love because Love is absent from it, sleeping on its bank. Because the river is not flowing healthily a dank marsh has formed in which the rushes grow. The sound of weeping is for the absence of Love. “the thistles and thorns of the waste” are a personification of chastity – the implication of “beguiled” is that these plants should be part of Love’s domain, but were cheated into being hard Love-less chastity. Blake puts the blame for the absence of Love onto the priests who dig up Love’s flowers and replace them with the graves and tombstones of dead hearts. The priests have got from the wastes (v2, l2) briars with which they are binding even the Poet’s “joys and desires” – not only do they prevent desire, they spoil joy as well. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 19 Points Abhishek Tiwari (10/10/2011 1:55:00 AM)

    'tombstones where the flowers should be'
    This I think is the filtrate of this poem..
    And of course it reminds me the garden of my school, where v played hide and seek, is now haughtily occupied by the temple of Godess Saraswati...
    The Godess of knowledge...
    So no place to hide,
    Forget Hide and Seek..
    : (
    I think this happens to one and all, in one way or the other...isn't it? (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 19 Points Abhishek Tiwari (10/10/2011 1:52:00 AM)

    'tombstones where the flowers should be'
    This I think is the filtrate of this poem..
    And of course it reminds me the garden of my school, where v played hide and seek, is now haughtily occupied by the temple of Godess Saraswati...
    The Godess of knowledge...
    So no place to hide,
    Forget Hide and Seek..
    : (
    I think this happens to one and all, in one way or the other...isn't it? (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 508 Points Ramesh T A (10/10/2009 2:42:00 AM)

    Indeed love lives in Nature but not in churches man made! (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Michael Pruchnicki (10/10/2008 10:26:00 AM)

    William Blake was a poet, engraver, painter, and mystic. As such, his poem 'The Garden of Love' illustrates his belief that direct access to God is more important than any Church with its establishment and practices that tend to drive away the direct experience with God that he espouses.

    'The Garden' has been relegated to the wild heath with its dank weeds and rushes, the thistles and thorns of an unkempt wasteland-a garden gone to seed. A structure has been built where once a beautiful garden flourished, a place where God is seen in all His natural beauty. A place created by God's bounty! Now gates and doors keep out the faithful, and 'Thou shalt not' enjoy the bounty of creation, by laws enforced by 'priests in black gowns' who walk their daily rounds like watchmen to keep out trespassers! Now death reigns supreme as granite tombstones replace flower beds and thorny briars bind his joys and desires.

    Blake employed copperplate engravings and watercolors to illustrate his own work as well as that of the Book of Job and Dante's 'Divine Comedy.' He was well aware of the ravages of time, and his 'Songs of Experience' and 'Songs of Innocence' bear out his belief that man can transcend mortality with belief in the supernatural. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Janet Hedger (10/10/2008 2:39:00 AM)

    I agree with Valerie, what one sees through the eyes of childhood becomes the reality in adulthood. Blake captures very well, in actually a few words of a short poem. I have a poem of mine that touches on this also - it is an evocative subject.
    Jan (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Valerie Sada (10/8/2008 11:34:00 AM)

    Well, to me this poem seems to be giving an example of how as a child, the innocence of not knowing is so powerful that it blinds us from reality and we create what we want. He loved that place because he used to play there in the green. But now, as he went back, now mature, he is able to see the reality which he had never seen before. All along he was playing in a graveyard but he never came to see that until he was older and felt the deception.
    Hope it helps, it's just what i got from it. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 2 Points Chris Mendros (10/10/2007 8:25:00 AM)

    This is just loaded with evocative imagery, as usual w/ Blake. At the end, he brings us down with images of what he sees as oppressive realities among the beauty that surrounds us. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie James Niles (10/10/2007 7:43:00 AM)

    To me this is an elegy of sorts. It decries and mourns the loss of one of love's greatest dimensions, the erotic and personal, by misguided piety. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 279 Points Marilyn Lott (10/10/2007 7:03:00 AM)

    Yes, Cheryl, I understand what you're saying. I was really
    caught up in the beginning. Perhaps someone can help us
    with this. Another point of view? (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Cheryl Tompkins (10/10/2007 1:28:00 AM)

    The beginning of the poem was good. I wanted to read more. As I got to the end I didn't get the point. (Report) Reply

Read all 20 comments »

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