The Garden Guide

Book: A treatise on the theory and practice of landscape gardening, adapted to North America,1841
Chapter: Section II. Beauties and Principles of the Art of Landscape Gardening

Beauty in nature

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Beauty, in all natural objects, as we conceive, arises from their expression of those attributes of the Creator- infinity, unity, symmetry, proportion, etc.-which he has stamped more or less visibly on all his works; and a beautiful living form is one in which the individual is a harmonious and well balanced development of a fine type. Thus, taking the most perfect specimens of beauty in the human figure, we see in them symmetry, proportion, unity, and grace-the presence of everything that could add to the idea of perfected existence. In a beautiful tree, such as a fine American elm, we see also the most complete and perfect balance of all its parts, resulting from its growth under the most favorable influences. It realizes, then, perfectly, the finest form of a fine type or species of tree. But all nature is not equally Beautiful. Both in living things and in inorganized matter, we see on all sides evidences of nature struggling with opposing forces. Mountains are upheaved by convulsions, valleys are broken into fearful chasms. Certain forms of animal and vegetable life, instead of manifesting themselves in those more complete and perfect forms of existence where the matter and spirit are almost in perfect harmony, appear to struggle for the full expression of their character with the material form, and to express it only with difficulty at last. What is achieved with harmony, grace, dignity, almost with apparent repose, by existences whose type is the Beautiful, is done only with violence and disturbed action by the former. This kind of manifestation in nature we call the Picturesque. More concisely, the Beautiful is nature or art obeying the universal laws of perfect existence (i. e. Beauty), easily, freely, harmoniously, and without the display of power. The Picturesque is nature or art obeying the same laws rudely, violently, irregularly, and often displaying power only.