Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Stourhead Garden #2 and Alexander Pope

Alexander Pope is not one of my favorite poets, in part, I suppose because I never had reason to study more than the occasional poem.   I didn't read enough of his work to get a true sense of what he had to say.  Our visit to Stourhead Garden introduced me to a piece of his writing with which I was unfamiliar; it was on a wooden sign:

I didn't "get" it, and I found myself puzzling over these two lines.  If I didn't understand it and didn't have the necessary background to be able to understand it, how many other visitors were equally flummoxed?  I was reminded of that frustration as I went through these photographs so I did some research.  Voila, I found it and light dawned:
Consult the genius of the place in all;
That tells the waters or to rise, or fall;
Or helps th' ambitious hill the heav'ns to scale,
Or scoops in circling theatres the vale;
Calls in the country, catches opening glades,
Joins willing woods, and varies shades from shades,
Now breaks, or now directs, th' intending lines;
Paints as you plant, and, as you work, designs.
           from  Epistle IV, to Richard Boyle, Earl of Burlington

Pope's verse laid the foundation for one of the most widely agreed principles of landscape architecture. This is the principle that landscape designs should always be adapted to the context in which they are located.*  (The italics are mine)
Generally speaking, I am wary of what I find in Wikipedia, but this time it made sense so I accepted it.  If you don't agree or have a different interpretation, please let me know!  And also, the problem our horticultural expert had with the American metasequoia being too large for its setting (see yesterday's entry) makes more sense to me after reading this landscape designs (or read "landscape materials", i.e., trees) should always be adapted to the context in which they are located.
Okay, enough of all that.  Here are the rest of the photographs from this garden.  Toward the end there are pictures taken after we left the garden and wandered a little afield.

The wooden plaque with the Pope quotation was right here looking over the lake.

I really like this one because of the people and how they are reacting to the landscape.  Click on it to see what they are doing.

What a tree trunk - magnificent!

And the rhododendrons

And a magnolia.

Wonderful church (it would be so easy to collect churches, wouldn't it? such history and such beauty).

Here is a doorway and windows!

Couldn't resist (after asking her mum if it was okay to take this picture) this little cherub was walking her dog through this beginning bower.  Her mum said they come every day the weather is good, and the little one walks through the tunnel every day.  Did you notice her hair is the same color as her dog (Cavalier King Charles spaniel, I think, right SMcG?)

We started to walk off down the road to find a pub until a local warned us against it.  There are no sidewalks, no room to avoid careening autos, and as she said, they do careen!

Again - wonderful doorway and wonderful stone to say nothing of the hanging plants.

No sidewalks, but there was a phone box in the middle of seeming nowhere!

Our last garden tomorrow at Blenheim Palace, the seat of the Duke of Marlborough.



  1. I must confess that the reason I don't like Shakespeare is that I don't "get" much poetry. I'm a straight forward person - tell me what you want to say, don't make me guess what it is. That being said - that lake is magnificent. And the little girl walking her dog, precious. How wonderful it must be to be able to go there every day the weather is good! Oh, and how can anyone not like those rhododendrons? That orange is spectacular!!

  2. Thank you for researching the Pope connection to Stourhead. I saw the sign, but didn't give it any further thought. Your research makes quite clear how Pope relates to the landscape garden and adds to my understanding of the history of English gardens. I also enjoyed the photos--particularly of the magnolia, the beautiful tree trunk, and that precious child with her dog (a future gardener perhaps?)..