"The woods decay, the woods decay and fall,
The vapours weep their burthen to the ground,
Man comes and tills the field and lies beneath,
And after many a summer dies the swan…
Me only cruel immortality
Consumes; I wither slowly in thine arms,
Here at the quiet limit of the world,
A white-hair'd shadow roaming like a dream
The ever-silent spaces of the East,
Far-folded mists, and gleaming halls of morn."
At first, with it’s image of death and burial, this poem seems like a bit of a buzz kill for such a festive season. But by evoking the sense of forever, Tennyson’s poem grants another kind of peace – the peace all gardeners will someday rest in.
When I was here, I tilled my garden, and I lived in it. But I dream that it will outlive me. I would be perfectly happy to believe that the woods will decay and fall long, long after I do. For man, the lifespan of a forest seem to approach the infinite, immortal, ultimate peace and stillness. Yesterday, I harvested some moss from the north shade of the house and planted it in tiny mounds with pretty stones. Today, here it is, sparkling in the morning sunshine.
In the quiet of the season, my garden sleeps, seemingly at the limit of the world. The small pots of succulents pictured above, delighted in the weak winter sun, seem match the images Tennyson paints, of heaven in the morning mists, and of some sort of peace beyond the lives of men who make gardens.