Literature in the Landscape

Stowe Gardens, Buckinghamshire, UK

Landscapes of the world have been influenced by literature and art throughout the centuries and transversely have acted as muses for writers and painters. The couplets below were written by Alexander Pope in the 18th Century in his work entitled “An Epistle to Lord Burlington”. This beautiful piece is testament  to the switch from Renaissance garden design principles to those of the English landscape movement. Pope’s words outline “new” garden design principles in a way that create vivid mental imagery for the reader.

To build, to plant, whatever you intend,

To rear the column, or arch to bend,

To swell the terrace, or to sink the grot;

In all, let Nature never be forgot.

But treat the goddess like a modest fair,

Not over-dress, not leave her wholly bare;

Let not each beauty every where be spied,

Where half the skill is decently to hide.

He gains all points, who pleasingly confounds,

Surprises, varies, and conceals the bounds.

Consult the genius of place in all,

That tells the waters or to rise, or fall,

Or helps the ambitious hill the heavens to scale,

Or scoops in circling theatres the vale;

Calls in the country, catches opening glades,

Joins willing woods, and varies shades from


Now breaks, or now directs, the intending lines;

Paints as you plant, and as you work, designs.

Still follow sense, of every art the soul,

Parts answering parts shall slide into a whole,

Spontaneous beauties all around advance,

Start, ev’n from difficulty, strike from chance;

Nature shall join you; Time shall make it grow

A work to wonder at – perhaps a Stowe.


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