The Garden Guide

Book: The Principles of Landscape Gardening
Chapter: Chapter 2: Compositional Elements of Landscape Gardening

Water in landscape gardens and design

Previous - Next

1517. Water is a material of so captivating and interesting a description in the different characters in which it occurs in nature, that no view can be reckoned complete in which it does not compose a feature. Indeed, as Whately observes, 'it is always regretted when wanted; and no large place can be supposed in which it may not be agreeable. It accommodates itself to every situation, is the most interesting object in a landscape, and the happiest circumstance in a retired recess; it captivates the eye at a distance, invites approach, and is delightful when near; it refreshes an open exposure; it animates a shade, cheers the dreariness of a waste, and enriches the most crowded view: in form, in style, and in extent, it may be made equal to the greatest compositions, or adapted to the least: it may spread in a calm expanse, to sooth the tranquillity of a peaceful scene; or, hurrying along a devious course, add splendour to a gay, and extravagance to a romantic situation. So various are the characters which water can assume, that there is scarcely an idea in which it may not concur, or an impression which it cannot enforce: a deep stagnated pool, dank and dark with shades which it dimly reflects, befits the seat of melancholy; even a river, if it be sunk between two dismal banks, and dull both in motion and colour, is like a hollow eye which deadens the countenance; and over a sluggard, silent stream, creeping heavily along altogether, hangs a gloom, which no art can dissipate, nor even the sunshine disperse. A gently murmuring rill, clear and shallow, just gurgling, just dimpling, imposes silence, suits with solitude, and leads to meditation: a brisker current, which wantons in little eddies over a bright sandy bottom, or babbles among pebbles, spreads cheerfulness all around: a greater rapidity, and more agitation to a certain degree, are animating; but in excess, instead of wakening, they alarm the senses; the roar and the rage of a torrent, its force, its violence, its impetuosity, tend to inspire terror; that terror, which, whether as cause or effect, is so nearly allied to sublimity.' (Obs. on Modern Gardening, p. 36.)