"Any garden whatsoever is but Nature idealized."
BACON wrote an ideal garden sketch which we as a nation treasure in our store-house of literary gems. It comes after the Essay "Of Building," and is the prince's garden to the prince' s palace which he reared with such consummate art. A lover, longing to beautify a bare patch, turns with a sigh from the rapturous piƈture of thirty acres laid out and planted with no thought of cost; but the last words of the essay bring sweet comfort even to one who revels in the peace and beauty of an acre, for one acre where love grows with the flowers can contain a whole world.
Month by month Bacon plants for you his garden and tells of flowers and trees which blossom in his ideal spot, We, too, to-day have "Roses of all kinds" and all the flowers he boasts of, but had he been more of a true gardener and less of an ideal literary genius, he could have gathered together a sweeter story of a year, Mr. W. Aldis Wright tells us in a note that in two copies of the Edition of 1625 the following sentence is substituted for the words at the end of his season's calendar. "Thus, if you will, you may have the Golden Age againe, and a Spring all the Yeare long," The Golden Age we would all fain have, but—Spring all the year? That is a graver question, for if the seasons lost themselves in an Eternal Spring we should sigh for our roses in vain, in vain.
From flowers Bacon carries us in thought to the Breath of Flowers; a beautiful description of the scent. I, for one, plead ignorance to the knowledge that dead strawberry leaves yield a "most Excellent Cordial Smell"; but the thought of tender perfume filling the air as the result of plants being "Troden upon and Crushed" will find an echo of sympathy in many hearts, aye, in many lives. There is many a sprig of "Burnet, Wilde-Time, and Water-Mints" in the Master's Hand, though we only take note of the lilies and roses as we tread life's garden.
There were three parts in this wonderful garden, a Green, a main garden, and a a wilderness, and I venture to think, although we hold with formal gardenings that one's thoughts linger longest in the tangle of sweet briar, honeysuckle "and the Ground set with Violets." Coloured glass for the "Sunne to Play upon" is no joy in these days.
It is well that Bacon assured us that a garden should have peace. It must have more, it must have Mystery, and this is an element missing in these thirty acres. Would they be found in the sun and shadow? or in the breath of the west wind? or songs of birds? or in the running water?—Perhaps.
Wheresoever the sun shone, shade was to be created; where wind blew, shelter. And there were to be no wet feet in Bacon's garden. A princess must be able to step in dainty satin slippers where fancy led her. He spared no cost, Yet as we read we feel for certain that he left no orders that his heart should be buried in his garden, for he possesseth not (I say it in all gentleness), however splendidly he writes, a garden soul.
The Essay is "a master-piece"; it opens with a note of praise, it ends in peace. It is written in stately measure, and the writing is as fresh to-day, and comes home to all of us as it did of yore. Do you wonder why? Because behind clipt yews, and stately hedges, and covert alleys, Nature holds her sway, and Nature ever plays on the heartstrings of the world.
(Mrs. Caldwell Crofton)