Wednesday, April 09, 2008


So on he fares, and to the border comes
Of Eden, where delicious Paradise,
Now nearer, Crowns with her enclosure green,
As with a rural mound the champain head
Of a steep wilderness, whose hairie sides
With thicket overgrown, grottesque and wilde,
Access deni'd; and over head up grew
Insuperable highth of loftiest shade,
Cedar, and Pine, and Firr, and branching Palm
A Silvan Scene, and as the ranks ascend
Shade above shade, a woodie Theatre
Of stateliest view. Yet higher then thir tops
The verdurous wall of paradise up sprung:
Which to our general Sire gave prospect large
Into his neather Empire neighbouring round.
And higher then that Wall a circling row
Of goodliest Trees loaden with fairest Fruit,
Blossoms and Fruits at once of golden hue
Appeerd, with gay enameld colours mixt:
On which the Sun more glad impress'd his beams
Then in fair Evening Cloud, or humid Bow,
When God hath showrd the earth; so lovely seemd
That Lantskip...

Thus, in Paradise Lost Book 4, Satan arrives in Eden. I was going to talk about the rather Milton-like artist Nicolas Poussin today, but the comment left by Arcady on my earlier posting about Milton made me want instead to quote some landscape description from this great poem. In his book The Figure in the Landscape, John Dixon Hunt talks about the influence Milton’s portrayal of Eden had on eighteenth century gardeners and champions of natural landscaping like Stephen Switzer. From it, they ‘derived authority for serpentine lines, natural treatment of water, rural mounds, wooded theatres...’ In the passage below, for instance, it is Nature rather than ‘nice Art’ that orders the flowers. A ‘happy rural seat of various view’ would thus exhibit what Shaftsbury would later call ‘things of a natural kind; where Art, nor the Conceit or Caprice of Man has spoil’d their genuine order.’

Southward through Eden went a River large,
Nor chang'd his course, but through the shaggie hill
Pass'd underneath ingulft, for God had thrown
That Mountain as his Garden mould high rais'd
Upon the rapid current, which through veins
Of porous Earth with kindly thirst up drawn,
Rose a fresh Fountain, and with many a rill
Waterd the Garden; thence united fell
Down the steep glade, and met the neather Flood,
Which from his darksom passage now appeers,
And now divided into four main Streams,
Runs divers, wandring many a famous Realme
And Country whereof here needs no account,
But rather to tell how, if Art could tell,
How from that Saphire Fount the crisped Brooks,
Rowling on Orient Pearl and sands of Gold,
With mazie error under pendant shades
Ran Nectar, visiting each plant, and fed
Flours worthy of Paradise which not nice Art
In Beds and curious Knots, but Nature boon
Powrd forth profuse on Hill and Dale and Plaine,
Both where the morning Sun first warmly smote
The open field, and where the unpierc't shade
Imbround the noontide Bowrs: Thus was this place,
A happy rural seat of various view...

1 comment:

arcady said...

So much of garden history is simply an attempt to re-create the garden of makes me wonder how waning belief in a literal Eden has changed the garden and our experience of it.

Pearly gates are the cliched feature of Paradise, but I'd rather think of its 'verdurous wall'. Thank you, again.