by Louis MacNeice

The sunlight on the garden
Hardens and grows cold,
We cannot cage the minute
Within its nets of gold;
When all is told
We cannot beg for pardon.

Our freedom as freelances
Advances towards its end;
The earth compels, upon it
Sonnets and birds descend;
And soon, my friend,
We shall have no time for dances.

The sky was good for flying
Defying the church bells
And every evil iron
Siren and what it tells:
The earth compels,
We are dying, Egypt, dying.

And not expecting pardon,
Hardened in heart anew,
But glad to have sat under
Thunder and rain with you,
And grateful too
For sunlight on the garden.

 

 

 

Note: Louis MacNeice wrote this poem in 1936, after his divorce from Mary Ezra, and it is probably one of his best-known works.

At the time, Louis lived at Number 4 Keats Grove - just down the street from the romantic poet John Keats' gorgeous white, Georgian villa (where Keats wrote his best-loved poems.)

If you're ever in London, check out Keats House and gardens - it's a veritable time capsule. It has fantastic reviews on Trip Advisor. Then, drive past Keats Grove Number 4 and peak at Louis MacNeice's home and front garden - it's still very charming.

This poem contrasts lightness and darkness. Light is life and the sum of our experiences; the garden on a sunny day, a sky good for flying, and sitting with a loved one the rain. The darkness is the relentless march of time, the sunlight that always fades away, and the sounds of sirens or church bells that often accompany tragedy.


As featured on
The Daily Gardener podcast:

Words inspired by the garden are the sweetest, most beautiful words of all.
Louis MacNeice
Louis MacNeice