The Ungrateful Garden

by Carolyn Kizer

Midas watched the golden crust
That formed over his steaming sores,
Hugged his agues, loved his lust,
But (cursed) the out-of-doors
Where blazing motes of sun impaled
The serried roses, metal-bright.

"Those famous flowers," Midas wailed,
"Have scorched my retina with light."
This gift, he'd thought, would gild his joys,
Silt up the waters of his grief;
His lawns a wilderness of noise,
The heavy clang of leaf on leaf.

Within, the golden cup is good
To lift, to sip the yellow mead.
Outside, in summer's rage, the rude
Gold thorn has made his fingers bleed.
"I strolled my halls in golden shift,
As ruddy as a lion’s meat.

Then I rushed out to share my gift,
And golden stubble cut my feet."
Dazzled with wounds, he limped away
To climb into his golden bed,
Roses, roses can betray.
"Nature is evil," Midas said.




Today is the birthday of an American poet of the Pacific Northwest, Carolyn Kizer who was born on this day, December 10, 1925.
Carolyn occasionally wrote about the garden, and my favorite garden poem by Carolyn is this charming piece about King Midas growing golden roses called The Ungrateful Garden.
Here are some definitions to help you understand Carolyn’s poem:
An ague ("AYE-gyoo") is a shivering fever, serried ("SAIR-id") means standing in a row, to "silt up" is to block or fill with silt, and a shift is a nightgown.
To keep the show clean, I’ve eliminated all offensive language.


As featured on
The Daily Gardener podcast:

Words inspired by the garden are the sweetest, most beautiful words of all.
The Ungrateful Garden

Leave a Comment