Study Guide

The Garden Stanza 5

By Andrew Marvell

Stanza 5

Lines 33-36

What wondrous life is this I lead!
Ripe apples drop about my head;
The luscious clusters of the vine
Upon my mouth do crush their wine;

  • Now we're in stanza 5 and, man, does our speaker seem excited to be here. "What wondrous life is this I lead!" This sounds like a par-tay.
  • And, as you might have noticed, it also sounds remarkably different in tone than what we encountered in the previous stanza.
  • This, folks, is what we call a volta. Volta is an Italian word meaning "turn" and, in poetry, it represents the specific place in a poem where the speaker's train of thought shifts, changes abruptly, or "turns." 
  • Words like "but," "and yet," or "alas" are common indicators that a volta might be right around the corner, but here the transition is more subtle. The shift in thought is really more like a shift in argument. The speaker turns from his argument that nature is better than society and begins talking, instead, about why nature is so awesome. 
  • The speaker does a great job of making the garden sound like the sweetest place on earth. Ripe apples falling from the trees, grapes leaking their juices into his mouth…
  • Actually, it also sounds a little too good to be true. This passage also marks where "The Garden" really becomes a pastoral poem as opposed a poem that just talks about nature. A pastoral is a poem that presents nature in an idealized and unrealistic form, as opposed to describing nature as it actually appears. So while we know that apples do get ripe and fall from trees and grapes are occasionally leaky, the romanticized, totally perfect, blissful way in which it's described here is a little too perfect to be taken at face value.
  • Nature is also proactively giving the speaker everything he wants. He isn't picking the apples, they're dropping right in front of him. The "luscious clusters" of grapes are squeezing themselves into his mouth—no effort needed. 
  • This no-work-necessary description of nature creates the idea that nature is awesome because it's a place that is both luxurious and relaxing. In an era where being outside is more likely to be associated with plowing the fields than playing in gardens, this is an important distinction to make.

Lines 37-40

The nectarine, and curious peach,
Into my hands themselves do reach;
Stumbling on melons as I pass,
Insnared with flow'rs, I fall on grass. 

  • The wording here is pretty clear: fruit is so plentiful that it's literally rolling itself into the speaker's hands; there are so many melons he can't even find a place to walk, and even if he does trip up, it doesn't matter because he's falling on a soft, cushy bed of grass.
  • Once again we see nature proactively giving the speaker everything he needs. Fruit, melons, flowers, a nice place to lie down—the garden has got it covered.
  • The idea of the speaker falling introduces some of the biblical imagery, specifically Garden of Eden stuff, that will become more prevalent in stanza 8. Adam and Eve's decision to eat the forbidden fruit is commonly referred to as the "fall of man."
  • The speaker also "falls" in his garden, but his fall reinforces the idea of the garden as a safe and relaxing place. He is ensnared with flowers, not by Satan, and falls on grass instead of into sin and eternal damnation.