I visited an old estate today Whose gardens, much acclaimed throughout the world, Spread out beyond the gated entranceway In scenic splendors gradually unfurled. Bright potted blooms sprung beaming by the drive, While further off, large topiary yews Rose stoutly in the air. The site, alive With summer, traded sunned and shaded views. This composition—classical, restrained— Bespoke the glories of a golden age: An equilibrium perchance ordained By god-directors on an earthly stage. I set off lightly down a stone-laid path With boxwood gathered cloudlike at each side; Here, no hint of nature’s chastening wrath Impinged upon man’s flourishes of pride. Proceeding, I pressed forward on a walk Of gravel, through an arch of climbing vines And ramblers—where a long, inquiring stalk Of fragrant musk rose, with its fuzzy spines, Pressed toward my face with luscious pale-pink blooms. Aha! At once, I almost could distill A wayward slant within these outdoor rooms! Though order reigned, I glimpsed some riot spill From bush and bending bough. Each bordered sward Spoke elegance, encasing gemlike pools— Appointed, each, with cherubs keeping guard— Yet moss had gathered round the sculpted stools. Still rapt by these core plats, I shortly passed Into the grounds beyond—deep green and vast. Mincing, I issued from that inner fold To find ahead a trilling rivulet With flowers on either side; yet how controlled Was even this—a cautious, cool vignette! Nonetheless, as in some scattered spots I’d seen before, there crept a shaggy clump Of unmown grass—a few forgotten blots Upon this bloom-besprinkled sphere; a bump Of wild daylilies, mowed along with lawn; And, further yet afield, a sprawling mire Spread forth, less fettered still. Here berries’ brawn Arose obscenely through the bulbs—each briar Announcing more desuetude in this place— Until, at once, stopped short all tended space. There meadows shot up—shaggy, coarse, and plain; Wiry weeds and scabbed grass, and the mad buzz Of insects’ millions; here the splattering rain Had mothered slug and bug and mugworts’ fuzz. Beyond, thick woodlands, reckless and abrupt, Loomed, calling, “Ho, enough of tended stuff! We are what's real!”—threatening to erupt— Ah, dizzy, blowsy trees—nature’s high rough Abandon! And so I mused upon the human mind: Its own mild garths and cool Augustan plots Were laid for promenades—sedate, refined— A genteel garden park, it seems, of thoughts. Or so it might appear—yet gather close, O marveling guest, round something slantwise spied: An errant feature free of plan or pose— A rankling thing you’d wish you hadn’t eyed! Here, stark, the prankster stands—perhaps a spire Of malice rising prideful in the air; Perhaps a wild confusion of desire; Perhaps a raw delusion, none too rare. Unchecked, untrimmed, they hint at countless more Uncomely details sprung at every edge Of reason’s fair cross-axis, past the door Of harmony’s last stand; truth’s final hedge. Observe: my own best traits were raised by force In soil hauled in from some more fertile strand. My consciousness, when nature takes its course, Still bristles, as if tended by no hand. Stripped were the grounds from which my grace was carved; Spaded, seeded, hoed its gaping womb— Beaten and blazed its weeds; its vermin starved To press my brain toward paths and gorgeous bloom. Friend, pass no further from my watered spheres, Well-groomed to please men’s civil hands and eyes! For past these bounds, a roiling madness rears; The way of chaos rules and wilds arise!