The Philosopher’s Garden

A Pensive Moment. Daniel Ridgeway Knight.


The Philosopher’s Garden

John Oxenham, 1913


‘See this is my garden,

Large and fair!’

—Thus, to the friend,

The Philosopher.


‘ ‘Tis not too long,’

His friend replied

With truth exact,—

‘Nor yet too wide.

But well compact,

If somewhat cramped

On every side.’


Quick the reply—

‘But see how high!—

It reaches up to God’s blue sky!’


Not by their size

Measure we men

Or things.

Wisdom, with eyes

Washed in the fire,

Seeketh the things

That are higher—

Things that have wings,

Thoughts that aspire.


A Little Poetry—William Arthur Dunkerley was a prolific writer who published poems, hymns, and novels under the name John Oxenham. “The Philosopher’s Garden” was a poem early placed in my memory box. I first encountered Oxenham’s poem in the garden anthology Up from the Earth. It was originally published in the volume Bees in Amber (1913), in which Oxenham poetically fossilized the proverbial bees in his bonnet.

This poem reminds me of my mother. As a homemaker and the teacher of our home-school, she has been wrongly contemned by others. Her sphere of influence, though powerful and beautiful, would seem a very small plot of earth—a Little garden. But the wise philosopher of the poem reminds his friend, and readers, to look vertically for the true magnitude of a work. Mark out Mama’s work in linear inches, if you like, but there aren’t enough of them in the world to tell how high her work reaches. “Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all.”