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Critical Appraisal of Amy Lowell’s poem “The Garden by Moonlight”

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Pareeshe Fatima

Amy Lowell’s poem “The Garden by Moonlight” stands out as a vivid and sensory exploration of the beauty of nature and the fleeting moments of human existence. What sets this poem apart is Lowell’s masterful use of a variety of poetic devices, creating multi-layered imagery that breathes life into the garden.

The poem unfolds in a garden bathed in moonlight, where a black cat roams amidst roses and phlox. The garden is not just ‘very still’ and ‘dazed with moonlight,’ but it also evokes a profound sense of tranquillity and serenity. The sweet scent of heliotrope and night-scented stock further heightens the sensory experience, enveloping the reader in the magical and enchanting atmosphere of the garden.

Lowell’s use of imagery and sensory language is particularly striking, creating a vivid and immersive experience for the reader. The moon-shimmer on leaves and trellises and the moon-spikes shafting through the snowball bush create a dreamlike quality that makes the garden feel like a magical and enchanting place. The opium dreams of the folded poppies and the firefly lights that “open and vanish” add to the otherworldly quality of the garden, enveloping the reader in its ethereal atmosphere.

One of the most interesting aspects of the poem is the use of personification to give the garden a sense of personality and character. The garden is not just a setting, but a living entity, described as being “contented with perfume” and “dreaming the opium dreams” of the poppies. This personification not only brings the garden to life but also invites the reader to connect with the natural world, making the poem more relatable and engaging.

The final lines of the poem delve into a profound contemplation, juxtaposing the transience of human existence with the enduring beauty of nature. The speaker’s pondering over the orange lilies, questioning who they will acknowledge once she has departed, invites us to reflect on our own mortality. This contemplation suggests that while our own existence may be fleeting, the beauty of nature will persist, serving as a poignant reminder of our temporary place in the world.

Overall, “The Garden by Moonlight” is a beautifully crafted poem that captures the ephemeral beauty of nature and the fleeting moments of human existence. Lowell’s use of vivid imagery, sensory language, and personification creates a dreamlike quality that transports the reader to a magical and tranquil garden under the moonlight.

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