Character Areas Tour

Buildings and Monuments Tour

Virtual Walking Tour

Virtual Reality Panoramas

History of the Gardens

Poetry and Prose about the Gardens

Ha-Ha Restoration Project

Glossary of Gardening Terms

Print Resources

The National Trust

Other Links


From Epistle to Burlington

Celebrating Stowe Landscape Gardens



Alexander Pope wrote the following passage celebrating the design of Stowe gardens as part of a poetic tribute to Richard Boyle, third Earl of Burlington, who was largely responsible for developing the new taste for gardening and architecture in England during the early eighteenth century. The full title of the first edition (1731) was An Epistle to the Right Honourable Richard Earl of Burlington, Occasion'd by his Publishing Palladio's Designs of the Baths, Arches, Theatres, &c. of Ancient Rome. This passage consists of lines 47-70 of the poem.

To build, to plant, whatever you intend,
To rear the Column, or the Arch to bend,
To swell the Terras, 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 ev'ry where be spy'd,
Where half the skill is decently to hide.
He gains all points who pleasingly confounds
Surprises, 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 heav'n 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 ev'ry Art the Soul,
Parts answ'ring 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 STOWE.




John D. Tatter, Birmingham-Southern College, jtatter@bsc.edu