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We have before observed, that there is generally in nature something more grand and august, than what we meet with in the curiosities of art. When, therefore, we see this imitated in any measure, it gives us a nobler and more exalted kind of pleasure, than what we receive from the nicer and more accurate productions of art. On this account our English gardens are not so entertaining to the fancy as those in France and Italy, where we see a large extent of ground covered over with an agreeable mixture of garden and forest, which represent every where an artificial rudeness, much more charming than that neatness and elegancy which we meet with in those of our own country. It might, indeed, be of ill consequence to the public, as well as unprofitable to private persons, to alienate so much ground from pasturage, and the plough, in many parts of a country that is so well peopled, and cultivated to a far greater advantage. But why may not a whole estate be thrown into a kind of garden by frequent plantations, that may turn as much to the profit as the pleasure of the owner? A marsh overgrown with willows, or a mountain shaded with oaks, are not only more beautiful, but more beneficial, than when they lie bare and unadorned. Fields of corn make a pleasant prospect; and if the walks were a little taken care of that lie between them, if the natural embroidery of the meadows were helped and improved by some small additions of art, and the several rows of hedges set off by trees and flowers that the soil was capable of receiving, a man might make a pretty landscape of his own possessions.
Writers who have given us an account of China, tells us, the inhabitants of that country laugh at the plantations of our Europeans, which are laid out by the rule and line;, because, they say, any one, may place trees in equal rows and uniform figures. They chuse rather to shew a genius in works of this nature, and therefore always conceal the art by
which they direct themselves. They have a word, it seems, in their language, by which they express the particular beauty of a plantation that thus strikes the imagination at first sight, without discovering what it is that has so agreeable an effect. Our British gardeners, on the contrary, instead of humouring nature, love to deviate from it as much as possible. Our trees rise in cones, globes, and pyramids. We see the marks of the scissars upon every plant and bush. I do not know whether I am singular in my opinion, but for my own part, I would rather look upon a tree in all its luxuriancy and diffusion of boughs and branches, than when it is thus cut and trimmed into a mathematical figure ; and cannot but fancy that an orchard in flower looks infinitely more delightful, than all the little labyrinths of the most finished parterre. But as our great modellers of gardens have their magazines of plants to dispose of, it is very natural for them to tear up all the beautiful plantations of fruit-trees, and contrive a plan that may most turn to their own profit, in taking off their evergreens, and the like moveable plants, with which their shops are plentifully stocked.
No. 415. THURSDAY, JUNE 26.
Adde tot egregias urbes, operumque laborem.
VIRG. Having already shewn how the fancy is affected by the works of nature, and afterwards considered in general both the works of nature and of art, how they mutually assist and complete each other, in forming such scenes and prospects as are most apt to delight the mind of the beholder, I shall in this paper throw together some reflections on that particular art, which has a more immediate tendency, Vol. II.
than any other, to produce those primary pleasures of the imagination, which have hitherto been the subject of this discourse. The art I mean is that of architecture, which I shall consider only with regard to the light in which the foregoing speculations have placed it, without entering into those rules and maxims which the great masters of architecture have laid down, and explained at large, in. numberless treatises upon that subject,
Greatness, in the works of architecture, may considered as relating to the bulk and body of the structure, or to the manner in which it is built. As for the first, we find the ancients, especially among the eastern nations of the world, infinitely superior to the moderns.
Not to mention the tower of Babel, of which an old author says, there were the foundations to be seen in his time, which looked like a spacious mountain; what could be more noble than the walls of Babylon, its hanging gardens, and its temple to Jupiter Belus, that rose a mile high by eight several stories, each story a furlong in height, and on the top of which was the Babylonian observatory. I might here likewise take notice of the huge rock that was cut into the figure of Semiramis, with the smaller rocks that lay by it in the shape of tributary kings; the prodigious bason, or artificial lake, which took in the whole Euphrates, till such time as a new canal was formed for its reception, with the several trenches through which that river was conveyed. I know there are persons who look upon some of these wonders of art as fabulous, but I cannot find any ground for such a suspicion, unless it be that we have no such works among us at present. There were indeed many greater advantages for building in those times, and in that part of the world, than have been met with ever since. The earth was extremely fruitful, men lived generally on pasturage, which requires a much smaller number of hands than agriculture: there were few trades to employ the busy part of mankind, and fewer arts and sciences to give work to men of speculative tempers; and what is more than all the rest, the prince was absolute; so that when he went to war, he put himself at the head of a whole people; as we find Semiramis leading her three millions to the field, and yet overpowered by the number of her enemies. It is no wonder, therefore, when she was at peace, and turned her thoughts on building, that she could accomplish so great works, with such a prodigious multitude of labourers: besides that, in her climate, there was small interruption of frosts and winters, which make the northern workmen lie half the year idle. I might mention too, among the benefits of the climate, what historians say of the earth, that it sweated out a bitumen, or natural kind of mortar, which is doubtless the same with that mentioned in holy writ, as contributing to the structure of Babel : “ Slime they used instead of mortar.”
In Egypt we still see their pyramids, which answer to the descriptions that have been made of them; and I question not but a traveller might find out some remains of the labyrinth that covered a whole province, and had a hundred temples disposed of among its several quarters and divisions.
The wall of China is one of these eastern pieces of magnificence, which makes a figure even in the map of the world, although an account of it would have been thought fabulous, were not the wall itself still extant.
We are obliged to devotion for the noblest buildings that have adorned the several countries of the world. It is this which has set men at work on temples and public places of Worship, not only that they might, by the magnificence of the building, invite the Deity to reside within it, but that such stupendous works might, at the same time, open the mind to vast conceptions, and fit it to converse with the divinity of the place. For every thing that is majestic, imprints an awfulness and reverence on the mind of the beholder, and strikes in with the natural greatness of the soul.
In the second place we are to consider greatness of manner in architecture, which has such force upon the imagination, that a small building, where it appears, shall give the mind nobler ideas, than one of twenty times the bulk, where the manner is ordinary or little. Thus, perhaps, a man would have been more astonished with the majestic air that appeared in one of Lycippus's statues of Alexander, though no bigger than the life, than he might have been with mount Athos, had it been cut into the figure of the hero, according to the proposal of Phidias, with a river in one hand, and a city in the other.
Let any one reflect on the disposition of mind he finds in himself, at his first entrance into the Pantheon at Rome, and how the imagination is filled with something great and amazing; and at the same time consider how little, in proportion, he is affected with the inside of a gothic cathedral, though it be five times larger than the other; which can arise from nothing else but the greatness of the manner in the one, and the meanness in the other.
I have seen an observation upon this subject in a French author, which very much pleased me. It is in Monsieur Freart's parallel of the ancient and modern architecture. I shall give it the reader with the same terms of art which he has made use of. “I am observing (says he) a thing, which, in my opinion, is very curious, whence it proceeds, that in the same quantity of superficies, the one manner seems great and magnificent, and the other poor and trifling; the reason is fine and uncommon. I. say then, that to introduce into architecture this grandeur of manner, we ought so to proceed, that the division of the principal members of the order