Space and place

                     Are not these woods
More free from peril than the envious court?
              (As You Like It, II.i.3-4)

Alack, the night comes on, and the high winds
Do sorely ruffle; for many miles about
There's scarce a bush.
              (King Lear, II.iv.299-301)

Straight mine eye hath caught new pleasures,
Whilst the landscape round it measures:
Russet lawns and fallows gray,
Where the nibbling flocks do stray;
Mountains on whose barren breast
The laboring clouds do often rest;
Meadows trim with daisies pied,
Shallow brooks and rivers wide.
Towers and battlements it sees
Bosomed high in tufted trees
              (Milton, "L'Allegro," 69-78)

                       but Nature boon
Poured forth profuse on hill and dale and plain,
Both where the morning sun first warmly smote
The open field, and where the unpierced shade
Imbrowned the noontide bow'rs. Thus was this place,
A happy rural seat of various view.
              (Milton, Paradise Lost, IV.242-7)

When darken'd Groves their softest Shadows wear,
And falling Waters we distinctly hear;
When thro' the Gloom more venerable shows
Some ancient Fabric, awful in Repose
              (Anne Finch, Countess of Winchilsea, "A Nocturnal Reverie," 23-6)

Where order in variety we see,
And where, though all things differ, all agree.
Here waving groves a chequer'd scene display,
And part admit, and part exclude the day;
As some coy nymph her lover's warm address
Not quite indulges, nor can quite repress.
              (Pope, "Windsor Forest," 15-20)

Through his young woods how pleas'd Sabinus stray'd,
Or sat delighted in the thick'ning shade,
With annual joy the redd'ning shoots to greet,
Or see the stretching branches long to meet!
His son's fine taste an op'ner vista loves,
Foe to the dryads of his father's groves;
One boundless green, or flourish'd carpet views,
With all the mournful family of yews;
The thriving plants ignoble broomsticks made,
Now sweep those alleys they were born to shade.
              (Pope, "Epistle to Burlington," 89-98)

Snatched through the verdant maze, the hurried eye
Distracted wanders; now the bowery walk
Of covert close, where scarce a speck of day
Fall on the lengthened gloom, protracted sweeps;
Now meets the bending sky, the river now
Dimpling along, the breezy ruffled lake,
The first darkening round, the glittering spire,
The ethereal mountain, and the distant main.
              (Thompson, The Seasons: Spring, 518-25)

What transport to retrace our boyish plays,
Our easy bliss, when each thing joy supplied;
The woods, the mountains and the warbling maze
Of the wild brooks!
              (Thomson, The Castle of Indolence, I.48)

Ah happy hills, ah pleasing shade,
Ah fields belov'd in vain,
Where once my careless childhood stray'd,
A stranger yet to pain!
              (Gray, "Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College," 11-14)

                       But the time, when first
From that low Dell, steep up the stony Mount
I climb'd with perilous toil and reach'd the top,
Oh! what a goodly scene! Here the bleak mount,
The bare bleak mountain speckled thin with sheep;
Grey clouds, that shadowing spot the sunny fields;
And river, now with bushy rocks o'er-brow'd,
Now winding bright and full, with naked banks;
And seats, and lawns, the Abbey and the wood,
And cots, and hamlets, and faint city-spire;
The Channel there, the Islands and white sails,
Dim coasts, and cloud-like hills, and shoreless Ocean --
It seem'd like Omnipresence!
              (Coleridge, "Reflections on Having Left a Place of Retirement" (1795), 26-38)

We were soon accosted by two young mountaineers, handsome and well made; they were walking barefooted, but with that grace and agility which so particularly distinguish the natives of the Pyrenees. Their bonnets were tastily ornamented with mountain flowers; and an air of adventure about them interested me exceedingly. They were ascending to the peak, said they, and asked if the plain were visible and free from vapours: for curiosity alone it seems had conducted them thither from the mountains of Bearn.
              (Ramond de Carbonnières, Travels in the Pyrenees, trans. F. Gold (1813), pp. 63-4)

[Meyringen] A young couple who had been lately married, but were not in very affluent circumstances, received [us] with pleasure into their habitation built at the foot of mount Housli. I preferred this cottage to a bad inn, where I could see but what I saw every day, peasants spoiled by their intercourse with foreigners, who, however scarce they may be in these regions, always pervert the morals of those that are any way connected with them.
              (Ramond de Carbonnières, notes to William Coxe, Travels in Switzerland (1802), Vol. II, p. 17)

[On Tintern Abbey]
The priest no more here chaunts, as measuring out
The hour, his matin and his ev'ning song,
Though still a portion of the stately dome
The Presbyter has claimed, and here he pours
The fervent prayer, thankful in happier hour
That popery sleeps . . .
              (George Dyer, "To Mr. Arthur Aikin, on taking Leave of him at Dunkeld, in Perthshire, after a Pedestrian Tour," 102-107. Monthly Magazine (1798). Reprinted by Robin Jarvis, "Poetry in Motion: George Dyer's Pedestrian Tour." The Wordsworth Circle, 29:3 (Summer, 1998), 142-151)

[Clarens] It would be hopeless to attempt a new sketch of these enchanting regions after the glowing description of Rousseau, which has already been so often detailed by the hundred sentimental pilgrims, who, with Heloise in hand, run over the rocks and mountains to catch the lover's inspiration. All in nature is still romantic, wild, and graceful, as Rousseau has painted it; but the soothing charm associated with the moral feeling, is in some sort dissolved.
              (Helen Maria Williams, A Tour in Switzerland (1798), pp. 179-80)

Above Brig the valley contracts into a narrow and inaccessible precipice, over whose bottom the Rhone rolls its roaring waves. The road winding along the Northern mountains brought me into the most dreary solitude of the Alps. I walked above two hours without meeting with any habitation in a dangerous path overshadowed by gloomy forests, and impending over an abyss, whose depth my eyes attempted in vain to reach. This desert is very much infested by robbers, and the many human heads fixed on poles, on both sides of the road, sufficiently bespeak its insecurity.
              (Ramond de Carbonnières, additional note to William Coxe, Travels in Switzerland (1802), Vol II, p. 86).

Few sights more please me than a public road;
'Tis my delight! Such object hath had power
O'er my imagination since the dawn
Of childhood, when its disappearing line
Seen daily afar off, on one bare steep
Beyond the limits which my feet had trod,
Was like a guide into eternity,
At least to things unknown and without bound.
              (Wordsworth, The Prelude (1805), XII.145-152)

The picturesque

The most perfect river-views . . . are composed of four grand parts: the area, which is the river itself; the two side-screens, which are the opposite banks, and lead the perspective; and the front-screen, which points out the winding of the river.
              (William Gilpin, Observations on the River Wye, p. 18)

But if Tintern-abbey be less striking as a distant object, it exhibits, on a nearer view, (when the whole together cannot be seen), a very enchanting piece of ruin. The eye settles upon some of its nobler parts. Nature has now made it her own. Time has worn off all traces of the chisel . . .
              (William Gilpin, Observations on the River Wye, pp. 49-50)

[At dusk] A light of this kind, though not so favorable to landscape, is very favorable to the imagination. This active power embodies half-formed images, which it rapidly combines; and often composes landscapes, perhaps more beautiful, if the imagination be well-stored, than any that can be found in Nature herself.
              (William Gilpin, Observations on the River Wye, p. 64)

We are most delighted, when some grand scene, tho perhaps of incorrect composition, rising before the eye, strikes us beyond the power of thought . . . . In this pause of intellect; this deliquium of the soul, an enthusiastic sensation of pleasure overspreads it, previous to any examination by the rules of art. The general idea of the scene makes an impression, before any appeal is made to the judgment. We rather feel, that survey it.
              (William Gilpin, from Three Essays on Picturesque Beauty, 2nd edition (1794). Essay II. On Picturesque Travel). To complete text

a lecture on the picturesque immediately followed, in which his instructions were so clear that she soon began to see beauty in every thing admired by him, and her attention was so earnest, that he became perfectly satisfied of her having a great deal of natural taste. He talked of fore-grounds, distances, and second distances -- side-screens and perspectives -- lights and shades; -- and Catherine was so hopeful a scholar, that when they gained the top of Beechen Cliff, she voluntarily rejected the whole city of Bath, as unworthy to make part of a landscape.
              (Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey, Vol. I, Ch. XIV [Oxford UP, ed. J. Davie, p. 87])

[Variety and intricacy] intricacy in landscape might be defined as that disposition of objects, which, by a partial and uncertain concealment, excites and nourishes curiosity. Variety can hardly require a definition, though from the practice of many layers-out of ground, one might suppose it did. Upon the whole it appears to me, that as intricacy in the disposition, and variety in the forms, the tints, and the light and shadows of objects, are the great characteristics of the picturesque scenery; so monotony and baldness, are the great defects of improved places.
              (Uvedale Price, Essays on the Picturesque, 2nd edition, 1810).

[Against Brown] What is the difference between such a piece of wild nature, and one of Mr. Brown's garden scenes in which he has best succeeded. . . . Instead of those tufts, thickets, and groups, whose playful outline and disposition create that beautiful intricacy which leads the eye a kind of wanton chace, his are clumps regularly dug, and consequently with a hard outline. Instead of that varied surface, where the mixture of broken tints gives such value to the more uniform green, and such delight to the painter's eye -- the unvaried colour and surface of dug ground, abruptly succeed to the no less unvaried surface and colour of mowed grass.
              (Uvedale Price, A Letter to H. Repton, Esq., 1795).

But cautiously will taste its stores reveal;
Its greatest art is aptly to conceal;
To lead, with secret guile, the prying sight
To where component parts may best unite,
And form one beauteous, nicely blended whole,
To charm the eye and captivate the soul.
              (R. P. Knight, The Landscape: A Didactic Poem, 2nd edition, 1795, I.191-6)

Yet often still the eye disgusted sees
In nature, objects which in painting please;
Such as the rotting shed, or fungous tree,
Or tatter'd rags of age and misery:
But here restrain'd, the powers of mimic art
The pleasing qualities alone impart;
For nought but light and colour can the eye,
But through the medium of the mind, descry;
And oft, in filth and tatter'd rags, it views
Soft varied tints and nicely blended hues,
Which thus abstracted from each other sense,
Give pure delight, and please without offence
              (R. P. Knight, The Landscape: A Didactic Poem, 2nd edition, 1795, I.257-268)

The state to which I now allude was one
In which the eye was master of the heart,
When that which is in every stage of life
The most despotic of our senses gained
Such strength in me as often held my mind
In absolute dominion.
              (Wordsworth, The Prelude (1805), XI.171-6)

Return to Romantic Travellers
Document created January 3rd 1999