Garden to Garden


Knowledge and the Sun

“And higher then that Wall a circling row 
Of goodliest Trees loaden with fairest Fruit, 
Blossoms and Fruits at once of golden hue 
Appeerd, with gay enameld colours mixt: 
On which the Sun more glad impress’d his beams  

(Book 4, lines 146-150).” 


“The brain a garden seems, full of delight, 
Whereon the sun of knowledge shineth bright 

(lines 1-2).” 

Both Milton and Cavendish touch upon knowledge and the sun in the descriptions of their respective gardens. Cavendish is more direct here, regarding her similized brain garden as a place where the “sun of knowledge” shines brightly.  

While Milton doesn’t mention knowledge directly, it could be interpreted through the fruit-laden trees, if the tree of knowledge is considered here as well. It’s also interesting to note that, in Eden, the sun shines down on these golden-hued fruits, much the same as it shines on Cavendish’s brain garden. 

Renowned Greek philosopher Plato has famously analogized the sun as something that represents “the nature of reality and knowledge concerning it”, which is something that Milton and Cavendish could have drawn inspiration from, especially since both had studied philosophy.

Imagination Flows

“Southward through Eden went a River large, 
Nor chang’d his course, but through the shaggie hill 
Pass’d underneath ingulft, for God had thrown  
That Mountain as his Garden mould high rais’d 
Upon the rapid current, which through veins 
Of porous Earth with kindly thirst up drawn, 
Rose a fresh Fountain, and with many a rill 
Waterd the Garden 

(Book 4, lines 223 – 230).” 


“Where fancy flows, and runs in bubbling streams 

(Line 3).” 

Both Milton and Cavendish liken imagination to water in some manner. In Eden, a “fresh fountain” rises up to water the garden throughout. The footnotes here explain that this fountain represents Milton’s imagination. 

Similarly, Cavendish’s garden has “fancy” flowing into bubbling streams. One definition of fancy, according to Oxford dictionary, is “the faculty of imagination.” As flowers are being described here, we are also provided with the line “thus many fancies from the brain still spring”, which could be taken to mean that this imaginative bubbling stream is springing up flowers all around, similar to how Milton’s fountain is watering the garden as well. Both authors have injected their own imagination as an integral part of their works.

Amorous Displays

“Her hand he seis’d, and to a shadie bank, 
Thick overhead with verdant roof imbowr’d 
He led her nothing loath; Flours were the Couch, 
Pansies, and Violets, and Asphodel,  
And Hyacinth, Earths freshest softest lap. 
There they thir fill of Love and Loves disport 
Took largely, of thir mutual guilt the Seale, 
The solace of thir sin, till dewie sleep 
Oppress’d them, wearied with thir amorous play 

(Book 9, lines 1037 – 1045).” 


“Their wit, as butterflies, hot love do make,                         
On every flower fine their pleasure take, 
Dancing about each leaf in pleasant sort, 
Passing their time away in amorous sport 

(Lines 15 – 18).” 

Cavendish and Milton display strikingly similar displays of passion with Adam and Eve and the butterflies, respectively. Adam and Eve, after partaking in the fruit of knowledge, fall into “love and lust” amongst the flowers.  

Similarly, the butterflies are a representation of wit, which “take pleasure” on flowers as well. The only difference is that Adam and Eve are described with “amorous play” while the butterflies are “amorous sport.” 

Nature of Creatures 

“About them frisking playd  
All Beasts of th’ Earth, since wilde, and of all chase 
In Wood or Wilderness, Forrest or Den; 
Sporting the Lion rampd, and in his paw 
Dandl’d the Kid; Bears, Tygers, Ounces, Pards 
Gambold before them, th’ unwieldy Elephant  
To make them mirth us’d all his might, and wreathd 
His Lithe Proboscis 

(Book 9, lines 340 – 347).” 


“Their wit, as butterflies, hot love do make,                         
On every flower fine their pleasure take 

(Lines 15 – 16).” 

“Industrious pains, as bees, suck out the sweet, 
Wax of invention gather with their feet 

(Lines 21 – 22).” 

“There birds of poetry sweet notes still sing,                           
Which through the world, as through the air, do ring 

(Lines 25 – 26).” 

Both Cavendish and Milton seem to display a peaceful coexistence of creatures within each garden. This is more obvious with Milton’s, as he takes creatures that wouldn’t normally get along (such as a lion and a goat) and has them directly interact with one another (the lion playfully holding the baby goat). Cavendish’s creatures don’t interact directly, but they do play vital roles beside one another to function the garden, so this seems to be a peaceful coexistence as well.



“Cedar, and Pine, and Firr, and branching Palm 
A Silvan Scene, and as the ranks ascend  
Shade above shade, a woodie Theatre  

(Book 4, lines 139 – 141).” 


“The brain a garden seems, full of delight 

(line 1).” 

The actual functional “structure” of each garden varies between Milton and Cavendish. In his account of Eden, Milton describes a “silvan scene” and a “woodie theatre”. The footnote provided for this section explains that the use of aforementioned descriptors suggests “Eden as a stage upon which the tragic drama of the Fall will take place. The narrator opens book 9 (lines 5-6) with the words, ‘I now must change/ Those Notes to Tragic,’ suggesting that his account of the fall will be more like a drama.” 

In comparison, Cavendish is taking a philosophical look at the brain and its functions, which she presents in the form of a garden.  

Birds and Trees

“Thence up he flew, and on the Tree of Life, 
The middle Tree and highest there that grew,  
Sat like a Cormorant; yet not true Life 
Thereby regaind, but sat devising Death 
To them who liv’d; nor on the vertue thought 
Of that life-giving Plant, but only us’d 
For prospect, what well us’d had bin the pledge  
Of immortality 

(Book 4, lines 194 – 201).” 


“There birds of poetry sweet notes still sing,                           
Which through the world, as through the air, do ring, 
And on the branches of delight they sit, 
Pruning their wings, which are with study wet, 
Then to the cedars of high honor fly, 
Yet rest not there, but mount up to the sky 

(Lines 25 – 30).” 

The descriptions of birds in each garden varies, as well as their relationship to trees. Satan appears in the form of a Cormorant, which, according to King, is a bird known infamously as “a symbol of gluttony, greed, bad luck, and evil.” As a symbol of gluttony/greed/bad luck/evil, it makes sense that Satan appears as a cormorant while watching Adam and Eve since he plans to bring about their downfall. But this is especially so with the way Cormorant-Satan is perched upon the Tree of Life. The footnote here states that “Satan so radically misperceives and so misuses the Tree of Life that it serves him merely as a convenient perch while he plans to bring Death into the world.” 

Cavendish paints a respectful image in contrast. These are sweet birds of poetry, sitting on “the branches of delight” to prune themselves peacefully as they sing. They aren’t misusing the branch of delight like Satan misused the Tree of Life. Instead, they are using the branches of delight to spread tunes of delight into the air. 

Watering Flowers 

“How from that Saphire Fount the crisped Brooks, 
Rowling on Orient Pearl and sands of Gold, 
With mazie error under pendant shades 
Ran Nectar, visiting each plant, and fed  
Flours worthy of Paradise  

(Book 4, lines 237 – 241).” 


“Where flowers grow upon the banks of dreams, 
Whereon the dew of sleepy eyes doth fall,                             
Bathing each leaf, and every flower small 

There various thoughts as several flowers grow 

(Lines 4 – 7).” 

Aside from the previously description of imagination watering the flowers in each garden, we are also provided with nectar and dew of sleepy eyes watering them as well. In Eden, nectar visits each plant. This is the drink of Gods, so it makes sense here that this is what shapes the paradise that God has created. Additionally, nectar’s properties grant immortality to mortals, which could apply to Adam and Eve before they ate the fruit.

Cavendish’s flowers, on the other hand, are grow on the “banks of dreams” where they are watered with dew from sleepy eyes. This springs up thoughts personified as flowers.


“The season, prime for sweetest Sents and Aires:  
Then commune how that day they best may ply 
Thir growing work: for much thir work outgrew 
The hands dispatch of two Gardning so wide. 
(Book 9, lines 200 – 203).” 


“Fancies, as painted tulips’ colors fixt, 
By Nature’s pencil neatly intermixt;                                       
Some as sweet roses, which are newly blown, 
Others as tender buds, not yet full grown; 
Some, as small violets, much sweetness bring. 
Thus many fancies from the brain still spring 

(Lines 9 – 14).” 

The maintenance of the garden and how it seems to grow varies between the depiction of Eden and the similized brain garden. In Paradise Lost, Adam and Eve are the ones working in the garden all day. They are unable to really keep up with the maintenance of the garden, but still toil over it day by day. This seems to show how they’re God’s humble creations tending to what they are given. 

In the brain garden, flowers aren’t grown so much as they spring up with each facet of the brain and its thoughts.  

Innocence and Dreams

“Soon as the force of that fallacious Fruit, 
That with exhilerating vapour bland 
About thir spirits had plaid, and inmost powers 
Made erre, was now exhal’d, and grosser sleep 
Bred of unkindly fumes, with conscious dreams  
Encumberd, now had left them, up they rose 
As from unrest, and each the other viewing, 
Soon found thir Eyes how op’nd, and thir minds 
How dark’nd; innocence, that as a veile 
Had shadow’d them from knowing ill, was gon 

(Book 9, lines 1046 – 1055).” 


“Where flowers grow upon the banks of dreams, 
Whereon the dew of sleepy eyes doth fall,                             
Bathing each leaf, and every flower small. 
There various thoughts as several flowers grow: 
Some milk-white innocence, as lilies, show 

(Lines 4 – 8).” 

Dreams and innocence vary in these gardens as well. In Eden, Adam and Eve fall into sleep and are plagued with the unrest stemming from their lost innocence after eating the fruit. 

In the brain garden, the dew of dreams produces flower-thoughts such as “milk-white innocence” as lilies.  

Works Cited:

Fancy.  In Oxford Online Dictionary. Retrieved from

King Richard (2013). The Devil’s Cormorant: A Natural History. University of New Hampshire Press.

Margaret Cavendish. “Similizing the Brain to a Garden” In Margaret Cavendish’s Poems and Fancies: A Digital Critical Edition. Ed. Liza Blake. Website published May 2019.

Milton, John, 1608-1674. ( 2000). Paradise lost. London ; New York :Penguin Books,

Out of all the projects, I’d say this one was the most difficult for me because I struggled to produce feasible ideas for what my unessay would be. I thought about Cavendish’s “Similizing the Brain to a Garden”, and also about how Paradise Lost deals heavily with the garden of Eden. I decided to compare and contrast the two gardens somehow, but honestly didn’t know what format to use other than an essay. My project conference with Dr Helms thankfully granted me the idea to structure it as a commonplace book, which is a book of compiled knowledge such as recipes, poems, quotes, etc. In other words, a deconstructed essay. It also seemed a lot easier to organize my thoughts by separating comparisons into their own entries.

Anyway, I looked over descriptions of the Garden of Eden from Paradise Lost and tried to pick out what interesting similarities and differences I could find. Some do make more sense than others, but I think they all have some basis, however small. I think it’s super neat how many things compared and contrasted in these works. A lot more than I expected! I wasn’t even sure that I would have enough material to work off of until I actually dived in.

Out of all the entries, I think “Knowledge and the Sun”, “Amorous Displays”, “Birds and Trees”, and “Growth” ended up being the best. The first two were very similar comparisons which, again, I thought was super neat. I would have never imagined butterflies and Adam and Eve would be that similar in the “amorous aspect”. The last two were just the coolest to compare, in my opinion. It was so so cool super neat seeing how both texts used birds perched on significant trees to convey something, but in direct opposite of each other. And then the Growth entry just ended up showing sort of how the garden functioned based upon its structure and I like how that tied together.

Although, to be honest, this is also my least favorite project of the 3 I did for this class. It didn’t feel as creative to me and I was experiencing burnout while creating it so maybe it’s not as good as it would’ve been if my brain was rested. My brain garden is sort of on fire right now but it’s ok because the break will become my garden hose and my cat will become the firefighter. (Now I feel like I missed the opportunity to just make my unessay about my own brain garden of burnout. Oh well, I don’t regret comparing the two gardens. Still fun to do.)

On the topic of comparing works and concepts, let’s talk about why literature matters. I find the process of creating literature to be fascinating! We talked a lot in this class about how everything is fanfiction which makes one think about how many seemingly different pieces of works can be compared and contrasted and, at their root, how many similar concepts they can have in particular. And I do think that literature matters in the sense that it can show us cultural values at given time periods, but also show us what hasn’t changed over time periods either.

/home/nrhelmsp/public_html/brit.lit/wp-content/plugins/molongui-authorship/views/author-box/html-layout.php on line 19
" data-author-type="
Warning: Undefined array key "type" in /home/nrhelmsp/public_html/brit.lit/wp-content/plugins/molongui-authorship/views/author-box/html-layout.php on line 20
" data-author-archived="
Warning: Undefined array key "archived" in /home/nrhelmsp/public_html/brit.lit/wp-content/plugins/molongui-authorship/views/author-box/html-layout.php on line 21
/home/nrhelmsp/public_html/brit.lit/wp-content/plugins/molongui-authorship/views/author-box/html-layout.php on line 41

Warning: Undefined array key "id" in /home/nrhelmsp/public_html/brit.lit/wp-content/plugins/molongui-authorship/views/author-box/html-layout.php on line 41
Warning: Undefined array key "archive" in /home/nrhelmsp/public_html/brit.lit/wp-content/plugins/molongui-authorship/views/author-box/html-layout.php on line 42
itemscope itemid="" itemtype="" >

Warning: Undefined array key "img" in /home/nrhelmsp/public_html/brit.lit/wp-content/plugins/molongui-authorship/views/author-box/parts/html-avatar.php on line 4

Warning: Undefined array key "show_social_web" in /home/nrhelmsp/public_html/brit.lit/wp-content/plugins/molongui-authorship/views/author-box/parts/html-socialmedia.php on line 6

Warning: Undefined array key "show_social_mail" in /home/nrhelmsp/public_html/brit.lit/wp-content/plugins/molongui-authorship/views/author-box/parts/html-socialmedia.php on line 7

Warning: Undefined array key "show_social_phone" in /home/nrhelmsp/public_html/brit.lit/wp-content/plugins/molongui-authorship/views/author-box/parts/html-socialmedia.php on line 8

Warning: Undefined array key "type" in /home/nrhelmsp/public_html/brit.lit/wp-content/plugins/molongui-authorship/views/author-box/parts/html-name.php on line 15

Warning: Undefined array key "type" in /home/nrhelmsp/public_html/brit.lit/wp-content/plugins/molongui-authorship/views/author-box/parts/html-name.php on line 17

Warning: Undefined array key "type" in /home/nrhelmsp/public_html/brit.lit/wp-content/plugins/molongui-authorship/views/author-box/parts/html-name.php on line 19

Warning: Undefined array key "archive" in /home/nrhelmsp/public_html/brit.lit/wp-content/plugins/molongui-authorship/views/author-box/parts/html-name.php on line 31

Warning: Undefined array key "name" in /home/nrhelmsp/public_html/brit.lit/wp-content/plugins/molongui-authorship/views/author-box/parts/html-name.php on line 34

Warning: Undefined array key "job" in /home/nrhelmsp/public_html/brit.lit/wp-content/plugins/molongui-authorship/views/author-box/parts/html-meta.php on line 10

Warning: Undefined array key "job" in /home/nrhelmsp/public_html/brit.lit/wp-content/plugins/molongui-authorship/views/author-box/parts/html-meta.php on line 15

Warning: Undefined array key "company" in /home/nrhelmsp/public_html/brit.lit/wp-content/plugins/molongui-authorship/views/author-box/parts/html-meta.php on line 17

Warning: Undefined array key "phone" in /home/nrhelmsp/public_html/brit.lit/wp-content/plugins/molongui-authorship/views/author-box/parts/html-meta.php on line 26

Warning: Undefined array key "mail" in /home/nrhelmsp/public_html/brit.lit/wp-content/plugins/molongui-authorship/views/author-box/parts/html-meta.php on line 36

Warning: Undefined array key "web" in /home/nrhelmsp/public_html/brit.lit/wp-content/plugins/molongui-authorship/views/author-box/parts/html-meta.php on line 46
/home/nrhelmsp/public_html/brit.lit/wp-content/plugins/molongui-authorship/views/author-box/parts/html-meta.php on line 80

Warning: Undefined array key "id" in /home/nrhelmsp/public_html/brit.lit/wp-content/plugins/molongui-authorship/views/author-box/parts/html-meta.php on line 80
-')" class="m-a-box-data-toggle" > + posts

Warning: Undefined array key "bio" in /home/nrhelmsp/public_html/brit.lit/wp-content/plugins/molongui-authorship/views/author-box/parts/html-bio.php on line 8

2 thoughts on “Garden to Garden

  1. Wow! This is really something else. I spent a lot of time with Similizng the Brain to a Garden, and honestly my brain was so fried from all of the Milton that I didn’t bother exploring the analogies to the garden of Eden. I think that completely recontextualizes the poem for me. It could be read as an entirely religious poem in that context. I interpreted it as a sort of “hey brains are pretty cool” but maybe it’s more of a “hey our brain is our own garden of Eden and like a tool which provides us with religious enlightenment?” oh boy. I don’t really know, but your analysis here has given me a lot to think about haha. Great work!

Leave a Reply