“Virtue! a fig! ’tis in ourselves that we are thus or thus.
Our bodies are our gardens, to the which our wills
are gardeners.”

Othello, William Shakespeare



“Virtue! A fig!” We grasp the hoe and dig.
The dirt we turn is taken from ourselves.
We chop the trunk and bough; then clip the twig,
and this way prune the molecule and cell.
The slender stalk, the brown and drooping blooms
obey the will within our working hands.
But evening falls and weariness consumes.
Both self and garden disobey commands.
O faithless workers, wake! The Gardener prays
while you sleep sound as seeds inside this wall.
The weeds take root; the best earth turns to clay.
What dirt-clad Adam sowed becomes our Fall.
We’re the compost, fools; we’re “the fig.”
The time is short. Come grasp the hoe and dig.

—Marjorie Maddox