Our Domestic Wild Landscape

I came across this from John Fowles, describing what travelers in the mid-18th century would think of the English countryside, and found it interesting:

It was without attraction to an age whose notion of natural beauty–in those few capable of forming such notions–was strictly confined to the French or Italian formal garden at home and the denuded but ordered (through art) landscapes of Southern Europe abroad.

To the educated English traveler then there was nothing romantic or picturesque at all in domestic wild landscapes, and less than nothing in the cramped vernacular buildings of such townlets. All this was so much desert, beneath the consideration of any who pretended to taste. The period had no sympathy with unregulated or primordial nature. It was aggressive wilderness, an ugly and all-invasive reminder of the Fall, of man’s eternal exile from the Garden of Eden; and particularly aggressive, to a nation of profit-haunted puritans, on the threshold of an age of commerce, in its flagrant uselessness. The time had equally no sense (except among a few bookworms and scholars) of the antique outside of the context of Greece and Rome; even its natural sciences, such as botany, though by now long-founded, remained essentially hostile to wild nature, seeing it only as something to be tamed, utilized, exploited. The narrow streets and alleys, the Tudor houses and crammed cottage closes of such towns conveyed nothing but an antediluvian barbarism.

It’s still dark as I’m typing this. Through the window behind me I can see the full moon sinking slowly toward the horizon behind the barn, casting moonshadows over a landscape that might offend some folks, even today in our own age of commerce, “in its flagrant uselessness.”

I am grateful this morning for the good sense to disagree with than assessment (which, thankfully, would be less common today than 250 years ago).

For our own little “domestic wild landscape,” I am grateful.