Poetry Gardens for Eyeballs Vexed and Tired

The Royal Horticultural Society recently held the Hampton Court Flower Show, featuring a competition for gardens inspired by great works of English poetry.

Barry Chambers’ garden won a Gold Medal and was inspired by ‘On the Sea’ by John Keats. This sonnet was written in 1817 and celebrates the excitement and danger the sea provides. Here is a picture of the winning garden followed by the poem it drew inspiration from:

It keeps eternal whisperings around
Desolate shores, and with its mighty swell
Gluts twice ten thousand Caverns, till the spell
Of Hecate leaves them their old shadowy sound.
Often ’tis in such gentle temper found,
That scarcely will the very smallest shell
Be moved for days from where it sometime fell.
When last the winds of Heaven were unbound.
Oh, ye! who have your eyeballs vexed and tired,
Feast them upon the wideness of the Sea;
Oh ye! whose ears are dinned with uproar rude,
Or fed too much with cloying melody—
Sit ye near some old Cavern’s Mouth and brood,
Until ye start, as if the sea nymphs quired!

The RHS website says the following about the garden and the poem:

This design rejoices in chaos. Like a stormy sea, many of the plants are exuberant and out of control.

A Silver Medal was awarded to Yvonne Mathews for her take on Byron’s ‘Love’s Last Adieu’. The garden was built by former grave-digger Rob Carr and gardeners from Co-Operative Funeralcare and is labelled as a “garden of mourning.”

Here is a verse from ‘Love’s Last Adieu’ and a picture of its corresponding garden:

In vain, with endearments, we soothe the sad heart,
In vain do we vow for an age to be true;
The chance of an hour may command us to part,
Or Death disunite us, in Love’s last adieu!

A Silver-Gilt Medal was awarded to The Design CIC for their garden based on Lewis Carroll’s ‘Jabberwocky’.

This garden is designed to form the final part of an extended therapeutic play space for Kids Company in South London – their avowed mission is to help heal traumatised young lives.


“And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!”
He chortled in his joy.

Other gardens were based on Kipling’s ‘My Boy Jack’; ‘Mont Blanc’ by Percy Bysshe Shelley and ‘Rural Architecture’ by William Wordsworth and can all be viewed by clicking here.

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