1415 | Harfleur

The Unpruned Vine

The relationship between peace and gardens.

Why that the naked, poor, and mangled Peace,

Dear nurse of arts, plenties, and joyful births,

Should not, in this best garden of the world,

Our fertile France, put up her lovely visage.

Alas, she hath from France too long been chased,

And all her husbandry doth lie on heaps,

Corrupting in its own fertility.

Her vine, the merry cheerer of the heart,

Unprunèd dies; her hedges even-pleached,

Like prisoners wildly overgrown with hair,

Put forth disordered twigs; her fallow leas

The darnel, hemlock, and rank fumitory,

Doth root upon, while that the coulter rusts

That should deracinate such savagery.

The even mead, that erst brought sweetly forth

The freckled cowslip, burnet, and green clover,

Wanting the scythe, all uncorrected, rank,

Conceives by idleness, and nothing teems

But hateful docks, rough thistles, kecksies, burrs,

Losing both beauty and utility. 

And all our vineyards, fallows, meads, and hedges,

Defective in their natures, grow to wildness.

Even so our houses and ourselves and children

Have lost, or do not learn for want of time,

The sciences that should become our country;

But grow like savages, as soldiers will,

That nothing do but meditate on blood,

To swearing and stern looks, diffused attire,

And everything that seems unnatural.

Which to reduce into our former favor

You are assembled; and my speech entreats

That I may know the let why gentle Peace

Should not expel these inconveniences

And bless us with her former qualities.


William Shakespeare

From Henry V, Act V, Scene ii. Shakespeare associated untended gardens with civil strife, corrupt government, and a disordered mind.