Nous sommes les filles du
Du feu qui circule dans les veines de la terre;
Nous sommes les filles de l’aurore et de la rosee,
Nous sommes les filles de l’air,
Nous sommes les filles de l’eau;
Mais nous sommes avant tout les filles du ciel.
The Dutch are now wholly practical. Their reputation as gardeners has become a commercial one, resting upon the fortunate discovery that the tulip and the hyacinth thrive in the sandy soil about Haarlem. For flowers as flowers they seem to me to care little or nothing. Their cottages have no pretty confusion of blossoms as in our villages. You never see the cottager at work among his roses; once his necessary labours are over, he smokes and talks to his neighbours: to grow flowers for aesthetic reasons were too ornamental, too unproductive a hobby. AEsthetically the Dutch are dead, or are alive only in the matter of green paint, which they use with such charming effect on their houses, their mills and their boats. What is pretty is old—as indeed is the case in our own country, if we except gardens. Modern Dutch architecture is without attraction, modern Delft porcelain a thing to cry over.
If any one would know how an old formal Dutch garden looked, there is a model one at the back of the Ryks Museum in Amsterdam. But the art is no more practised. A few circular beds in the lawn, surrounded by high wire netting—that is for the most part the modern notion of gardening. In an interesting report of a visit paid to the Netherlands and France in 1817 by the secretary of the Caledonia Horticultural Society and some congenial companions, may be read excellent descriptions of old Dutch gardening, which even then was a thing of the past. Here is the account of a typical formal garden, near Utrecht: “The large divisions of the garden are made by tall and thick hedges of beech, hornbeam, and oak, variously shaped, having been tied to frames and thus trained, with the aid of the shears, to the desired form. The smaller divisions are made by hedges of yew and box, which in thickness and density resemble walls of brick. Grottoes and fountains are some of the principal ornaments. The grottoes are adorned with masses of calcareous stuff, corals and shells, some of them apparently from the East Indies, others natives of our own seas. The principal grotto is large, and studded with thousands of crystals and shells. We were told that its construction was the labour of twelve years. The fountains are of various devices, and though old, some of them were still capable of being put in action. Frogs and lizards placed at the edgings of the walks, and spouting water to the risk of passengers, were not quite so agreeable; and other figures were still in worse taste.
“There is a long berceau walk of beech, with numerous windows or openings in the leafy side wall, and many statues and busts, chiefly of Italian marble, some of them of exquisite workmanship. Several large urns and vases certainly do honour to the sculptor. The subjects of the bas-relief ornaments are the histories of Saul and David, and of Esther and Ahasuerus.”