Though not often consciously recognized, perhaps this is the great pleasure of summer: to watch the earth, the dead particles, resolving themselves into the living case of life, to see the seed-leaf push aside the clod and become by degrees the perfumed flower. From the tiny, mottled egg come the wings that by and by shall pass the immense sea. It is in this marvelous transformation of clods and cold matter into living things that the joy and the hope of Summer reside. Every blade of grass, each leaf, each separate floret and petal is an inscription speaking of hope. Consider the grasses and the oaks, the swallows, the sweet, blue butterfly-they are one and all a sign and token showing before our eyes earth made into life. So that my hope becomes as broad as the horizon afar, reiterated by each leaf, sung on every bough, reflected in the gleam of every flower. There is so much for us yet to come, so much to be gathered and enjoyed. Not for you or me, now, but for our race, who will ultimately use this magical secret for their happiness. Earth holds secrets enough to give them the life of the fabled Immortals. My heart is fixed firm and stable in the belief that ultimately the sunshine and the Summer, the flowers and the azure sky, shall become, as it were, interwoven into man’s existence. He shall take from all their beauty and enjoy their glory.
A GARDEN! The word is in itself a picture, and what pictures it reveals! All through the days of childhood the garden is our fairy-ground of sweet enchantment and innocent wonder. From the first dawn of thought, when we learned our simple lessons of Eden and its loss, and seemed to see the thornless garden, watered with clear streams, beautiful with spreading trees, and the train of unnamed beasts and birds meekly passing before their spotless lord; and then beyond, far onward to that other garden beloved by the Man of Sorrows, Gethsemane, where we could never picture the blossoming of roses or murmurous hum of summer bees, but only the sombre garden walks, and One kneeling among the olives, and dark, heavy drops upon the grass. And near to this, the garden of the Sepulchre in a dewy dawnlight, angel-haunted. These were our Gardens of the Soul. In later years the mists of those older, holier spots wear away as snow-wreaths in the vivid brilliance of the Gardens of Poetry. Then, dreamlike, from sapphire seas arose the Gardens of the Hesperides, and we beheld the white-vestured maidens as they danced around the golden-fruited, dragon-guarded tree. Then bloomed for us the gardens of mediaeval Italy. The Poets’ garden of cypress and lemon, of marble stairs and sparkling fountains, with all their moonlight mirth and sorrow; ilex-groves of song and silver-threaded laughter; visions of Rimini, or gay Boccaccio’s tales. Then did we linger where high-piping nightingales sang to the Persian Rose in the Gulistan of Sa’di felt the pure sunlight shine in a little wilderness of roses, or the green shade that lay round the apple-trees of Andrew Marvell; or in the garden of the Sensitive Plant, we followed the shadowy steps of the Lady, our souls entranced with the love of every flower she loved. They are all beautiful, these Gardens of Poetry! and through the midst of them flows the broad stream of Memory, isled with fair lilied lawns, fringed with willowy forests and whispering reeds. And not less beautiful than these ideal shades are the gardens which live unchanged and unchanging in many a painted picture within the heart. Real, and not less ideal, is the remembrance of gardens we have seen: seen once, it may be, and never since forgotten.
My dream is of a Library in a Garden! In the very centre of the garden away from house or cottage, but united to it by a pleached alley or pergola of vines or roses, an octagonal book-tower like Montaigne’s rises upon arches forming an arbour of scented shade. Between the book-shelves, windows at every angle, as in Pliny’s Villa library, opening upon a broad gallery supported by pillars of “faire carpenter’s work,” around which cluster flowering creepers, follow the course of the sun in its play upon the landscape. “Last stage of all,” a glass dome gives gaze upon the stars by night, and the clouds by day: “les nuages … les nuages qui passent … là bas . . . les merveilleux nuages!” And in this–this Garden of Books–Sui et Amicorum, would pass the coloured days and the white nights, “not in quite blank forgetfulness, but in continuous dreaming, only half-veiled by sleep.”
A. FORBES SIEVEKING