Tone, setting, and voice, as well as the imagery used to create these feelings in Lindon’s “My Garden” help convey the complete meaning of the poem—the meaning beyond simply the literal translation of the text. These four elements determine the emotional side of the poem, including with it the poet’s own feelings toward the subject. The garden in Lindon’s poem is a loathsome thing, and the connotations of words and the use of adjectives and imagery help to truly communicate the narrator’s disgust. Quite the opposite of Brown’s “My Garden,” Lindon’s work shows how simple changes in language—therefore changes in tone and voice—can alter the meaning of a poem quite drastically.
The period in which a poem was written can have quite an effect on the poet’s viewpoint. At the time “My Garden” was written, the Cold War had officially been going on for almost fifteen years, and conditions around the world reflected the growing tension and difficulty that the post war period brought. While certain areas and classes prospered, the world began to see an increase in unemployment, especially among blue-collar workers as machinery replaced human labor. Poverty remained high, and general rebelliousness of certain social groups rose. The setting described in Lindon’s poem, then, can possibly be a reflection of such conditions in society. The poem is full of images describing the disgusting conditions of the garden—“Weed plot, / Scum pool, / Old plot, / Snail-shiny stool...” (3-6). The images are not very pleasant, but neither were the times.
The other aspect of setting is the actual place of the description or action in the poem. In this case, the poet asks the reader to visualize a garden little more than a muddy plot of dirt. Lindon gives a fairly definite description in the third through sixth lines of a garden rampant with weeds, covered in scum, and gone to “pot,” to ruin. The use of snails, especially with the alliteration of “s” sounds relating to a snail’s slippery body and slimy movement, particularly in the line “Snail-shiny stool,” is additionally effective in the description of the scene as a disgusting, filthy place. And, with the inclusion of the stool in the sixth and seventh lines, shiny with snails and broken in pieces, in addition to the use of the “p” sound, itself a bit dirty, often throughout the poem, Lindon completes the picture. Yet, while the setting within the poem is fairly obvious, it still plays an essential role in determining the tone and mood of the piece.
The speaker and his viewpoint also contribute to setting the tone of the poem. Most likely, Lindon himself is speaking, perhaps looking out over his own neglected garden, perhaps upset with himself for mistreating it. His attitude is a bit playful, but at the same time he is revolted by the state of the plot. On one hand, the speaker says “Nay, but I see their trials! / ‘Tis very sure my garden’s full of snails!” quite boyishly, but most of the first half the poem is quite serious and quite direct, constructed of lines using one harsh adjective followed by a single noun (10-12). So, the narrator’s speech becomes at the same time spirited and grave.
The same is true of the overall tone of the poem. A combination of the elements of the setting, of the speaker’s viewpoint, and of the poets frame of mind combine to create the mood of the poem as a whole. Quite similar to the tone of the speaker’s voice, the tone of the entire poem is both silly and serious. On one side, the poem is a parody of Brown’s “My Garden,” immediately implying that the Linden piece was meant to be a bit humorous. In contrast, however, the poet takes a rather harsh view of the garden, supported by the combination of his choice of language and short line structure, while perhaps reflecting on the conditions of life and society at the time. Still, isn’t the outcome of a garden only the result of the effort one puts into it?