« PreviousContinue »
Whoever a true epicure would be,
Than nature's liberality
Yet still the fruits of earth we see Plac'd the third story high in all her luxury.
Where does the wisdom and the power divine
Than when we with attention look
We all, like Moses, should espy,
Upon the flowers of heaven we gaze;
Though these perhaps do, more than they,
The life of mankind sway. Although no part of mighty nature be
More stor'd with beauty, power and mystery,
and such dominion leaves for art.
We nowhere art do so triumphant see,
As when it grafts or buds the tree:
What law he's pleas'd to give ?
Even she, that chaste and virgin tree,
Now wonders at herself to see
Methinks I see great Dioclesian walk
T'entice him to a throne again.
carry me away. And trust me not, my friends, if every day
I walk not here with more delight Than ever, after the most happy fight, In triumph to the capitol I rode, To thank the gods, and to be thought, myself, almost a god.
A noble finish that, to a sometimes prosaical, often poetical, and always engaging and thoughtful effusion.
The garden possessed by Cowley's friend Evelyn was at his seat of Sayes Court, Deptford. It contained, among other beauties, an enormous hedge of holly, which made a glorious show in winter time with its shining red berries. The Czar Peter, who came to England in Evelyn's time, and occupied his house, took delight (by way of procuring himself a strong Russian sensation), in being drawn through this hedge “in a wheel-barrow!" He left it in sad condition accordingly, to the disgust and lamentation of the owner. The garden cuts rather a formal and solemn figure, to modern eyes, in the engravings that remain of it. But such engravings can suggest little of color and movement of flowers and the breathing trees; and our ancestors had more reason to admire those old orderly creations of theirs than modern improvement allows. We are too apt to suppose that one thing cannot be good, because another is better; or that an improvement cannot too often reject what it might include or ameliorate. There
no want of enthusiasm in the admirers of the old style, whether they were right or wrong. Hear what an arbiter of taste in the next age said of it, the famous Sir William Temple. He was an honest
statesman and mild Epicurean philosopher, in the real sense of that designation; that is to say, temperate and reflecting, and fonder of a garden and the friends about him than of anything else. He was a great cultivator of fruit. He had the rare pleasure of obtaining the retirement he loved; first at Sheen, near Richmond, in Surrey, which is the place alluded to in the following “ Thoughts on Retirement;" and, secondly, at Moor Park, near Farnham, in the same county-a residence probably named after the Moor Park which he eulogizes in the subsequent description of a garden. In the garden of his house at Farnham he directed that his heart should be buried; and it was. The sun-dial, under which he desired it might be deposited, is still remaining
SIR WILLIAM TEMPLE'S THOUGHTS ON
FROM ONE OF HIS LETTERS.
As , it
(gardening), were the inclination of my youth itself, so they are the pleasure of my age; and I can truly say, that, among many great employments that have fallen to my share, I have never asked or sought for any one of them, but often endeavored to escape from them into the ease and freedom of a private scene, where a man may go his own way and his own pace, in the common paths or circles of life.
"Inter cuncta leges et per cunctabere doctos
But above all the learned read, and ask
These are the questions that a man ought at least to ask himself, whether he asks others or no, and to choose his course of life rather by his own humor and temper, than by common accidents, or advice of friends; at least if the Spanish proverb be true, That a fool knows more in his own house than a wise man in another's.
The measure of choosing well is, whether a man likes what he has chosen ; which, I thank God, is what has befallen me; and though among the follies of my life, building and planting have not been the least, and have cost me more than I have the confidence to own, yet they have been fully recompensed by the sweetness and satisfaction of this retreat, where, since my resolution taken of never entering again into any public employments, I have passed five years without ever going once to town, though I am almost in sight of it and have a house there always ready to receive me. Nor has this been any sort of affectation, as some have thought it, but a mere want of desire or humor to make so small a remove: for when I am in this corner, I can truly say with Horace,
“Me quoties reficit gelidus Digentia rivus,