In the poem The Garden of Love, William Blake explains how the Church has taken away the happiness of the people by imposing a lot of restrictions on their freedom and the things which used to comfort them.
Blake uses the first-person perspective to share his experience as a child when he used to play in the garden of love. But after growing up, when he returned back, he found that the garden of love was no more. Instead, there was a Church which forbade people from entering there. Moreover, there were graves everywhere.
The poem has been divided into three stanzas having four lines each. The rhyme scheme is ABCB DEFE GHIJ.
The Garden of Love Poem Summary
The poet says that after getting old, he goes back to the garden of love where he used to play. There he sees something which he never saw before. It means that the poet is shocked to see something new in the garden of love.
He sees that a Chapel (worship house of Christians) is built in the middle of the green garden where he used to play when he was young. The first stanza depicts the poet’s dissatisfaction with the religion and the places of worship.
The poet says that the gates of that Chapel were shut and it was written over the doors that no one should enter or play or do anything else there. These two lines of the stanza 2 quite important because they reveal the real face of the popular religion.
Blake was a Romantic Poet who firmly believed in God. However, that didn’t make him to blindly follow religion and religious practices. Instead, he was highly critical of the clergy who used to befool people in the name of religion and extract money from them. Not only this, but they also put restrictions on them thus discouraging them from free and critical thinking.
In these lines, the poet says that the Chruch was built right in the middle of the garden of love. If we go deeper into the words, we find that the poet is talking about the doctrines which were put forward by the clergy. They forbade the people from enjoying their lives and made them bow before them.
In the third line, the poet says that he then turned to the Garden of Love which bore a number of sweet flowers. The stanza ends here.
This stanza continues from the second one. The poet sees that the garden of love is filled with graves and tombstones where once the flowers used to bloom. Moreover, priests were walking around in black gowns (long elegant dress) in that garden who according to the poet had bound or trapped his joys and desires.
In this stanza, the poet uses some dark images to depict the negativity of religion. Graves, tombstones and black gowns are all dark images which depict sorrow, grief, death and despair. All these images show how religion has taken away the happiness of humans. It is not preaching about God but its own selfish desires on the cost of people’s happiness.