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To RICHARD BOYLE, EARL OF BURLINGTON.
The vanity of expense in people of wealth and quality. The abuse of the word taste. That the first principle and foundation in this, as in every thing else, is good sense. The chief proof of it is to follow Nature, even in works of mere luxury and elegance. Instanced in architecture and gardening, where all must be adapted to the genius and use of the place, and the beauties not forced into it, but resulting from it. How men are disappointed in their most expensive undertakings, for want of this true foundation, without which nothing can please long, if at all; and the best examples and rules will be but perverted into something burthensome and ridiculous. A description of the false taste of magnificence; the first grand errour of which is, to imagine that greatness consists in the size and dimension, instead of the proportion and harmony of the whole; and the second, either in joining together parts incoherent, or too minutely resembling, or in the repetition of the same too frequently. A word or two of false taste in books, in music, in painting, even in preaching and prayer, and lastly in entertainments. Yet Providence is justified in giving wealth to be squandered in this manner, since it is dispersed to the poor and laborious part of mankind. What are the proper objects of magnificence, and a proper field for the expense of great men; and finally the great and public works which become a prince.
'Tis strange, the miser should his cares employ
To gain those riches he can ne'er enjoy;
Is it less strange, the prodigal should waste
His wealth, to purchase what he ne'er can taste?
Not for himself he sees, or hears, or eats;
Artists must choose his pictures, music, meats:
He buys for Topham drawings and designs;
For Pembroke statues, dirty gods, and coins;
Rare monkish manuscripts for Hearne alone,
And books for Mead, and butterflies for Sloane.
Think we all these are for himself? no more
Than his fine wife, alas! or finer whore.
For what has Virro painted, built, and planted? Only to show how many tastes he wanted. What brought Sir Visto's ill-got wealth to waste? Some demon whisper'd, "Visto! have a taste. Heaven visits with a taste the wealthy fool, And needs no rod but Ripley with a rule. See! sportive Fate, to punish awkward pride, Bids Bubo build, and sends him such a guide: A standing sermon, at each year's expense, That never coxcomb reach'd magnificence!
You show us, Rome was glorious, not profuse, And pompous buildings once were things of use. Yet shall, my lord, your just, your noble rules Fill half the land with imitating fools;
Who random drawings from your sheets shall take,
And of one beauty many blunders make;
Load some vain church with old theatric state,
Turn arts of triumph to a garden-gate;
Reverse your ornaments, and hang them all
On some patch'd dog-hole ek'd with ends of wall
Then clap four slices of pilaster on 't,
That, lac'd with bits of rustic, makes a front.
Shall call the winds through long arcades to roar,
Proud to catch cold at a Venetian door;
Conscious they act a true Palladian part,
And if they starve, they starve by rules of art.
Oft have you hinted to your brother peer,
A certain truth, which many buy too dear:
Something there is more needful than expense,
And something previous ev'n to taste
Good sense, which only is the gift of Heaven,
And, though no science, fairly worth the seven:
A light which in yourself you must perceive;
Jones and Le Nôtre have it not to give.
To build, to plant, whatever you intend,
To rear the column, or the arch to bend,
To swell the terrace, or to sink the grot;
In all, let Nature never be forgot.
But treat the goddess like a modest fair,
Nor over-dress, nor leave her wholly bare;
Let not each beauty every where be spy'd,
Where half the skill is decently to hide.
He gains all points, who pleasingly confounds,
Surprizes, varies, and conceals the bounds.
Consult the genius of the place in all;
That tells the waters or to rise, or fall;
Or helps th' ambitious hill the heavens to scale,
Or scoops in circling theatres the vale;
Calls in the country, catches opening glades,
Joins willing woods, and varies shades from shades;
Now breaks, or now directs th' intending lines;
Paints as you plant, and, as you work, designs.
Still follow sense, of every art the soul,
Parts answering parts shall slide into a whole,
Spontaneous beauties all around advance,
Start ev'n from difficulty, strike from chance;
Nature shall join you; Time shall make it grow
A work to wonder at — perhaps a Stow.
Without it, proud Versailles! thy glory falls; And Nero's terraces desert their walls: The vast parterres a thousand hands shall make, Lo! Cobham comes, and floats them with a lake: Or cut wide views through mountains to the plain, You'll wish your hill or shelter'd seat again. Ev'n in an ornament its place remark, Nor in an hermitage set Dr. Clarke. Behold Villario's ten years' toil complete ; His quincunx darkens, his espaliers meet; The wood supports the plain, the parts unite, And strength of shade contends with strength of
A waving glow the bloomy beds display,
Blushing in bright diversities of day,
With silver-quivering rills meander'd o'er —
Enjoy them, you! Villario can no more;
Tir'd of the scene parterres and fountains yield,
He finds at last he better likes a field.
Through his young woods how pleas'd Sabinus
Or sate delighted in the thickening shade,
With annual joy the reddening shoots to greet,
Or see the stretching branches long to meet!
His son's fine taste an opener 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.
At Timon's villa let us pass a day,
Where all cry out, "What sums are thrown away!"
So proud, so grand; of that stupendous air,
Soft and agreeable come never there.
Greatness, with Timon, dwells in such a draught
As brings all Brobdignag before your thought.
To compass this, his building is a town,
His pond an ocean, his parterre a down:
Who but must laugh, the master when he sees,
A puny insect, shivering at a breeze!
Lo, what huge heaps of littleness around!
The whole a labour'd quarry above ground.
Two Cupids squirt before: a lake behind
Improves the keenness of the northern wind.
His gardens next your admiration call,
On every side you look, behold the wall!
No pleasing intricacies intervene,
No artful wildness to perplex the scene;
Grove nods at grove, each alley has a brother,
And half the platform just reflects the other.
The suffering eye inverted Nature sees,
Trees cut to statues, statues thick as trees;
With here a fountain, never to be play'd;
And there a summer-house that knows no shade;
Here Amphitrite sails through myrtle bowers;
There gladiators fight, or die in flowers;
Unwater'd see the drooping sea-horse mourn,
And swallows roost in Nilus' dusty urn.