The Countryside Ideal: Anglo-America Landscape by Michael Bunce

By Michael Bunce

`God made the rustic, synthetic the town.' William Cowper's phrases, written centuries in the past, underline an idealisation of rural lifestyles and panorama which persists to at the present time. What are the most ancient methods and concepts underlying the continued attachment to the nation-state? How have those formed well known values and existence inspired creative expression, outlined attitudes to nature, nation existence and 8andscape, and affected the advance of either rural and concrete landscapes? What are the implications for society and the surroundings? those are the relevant questions addressed during this ebook. The nation-state perfect attracts jointly assorted photographs of panorama to discover this preoccupation with position, tradition and illustration within the West.

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To The Seasons we can add the retrospective lament for nature in Gray’s Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard (which was as big a seller as The Seasons), Shenstone’s portrayal of the natural harmony of the English countryside, Goldsmith’s nostalgia in The Deserted Village for the nature of a golden rural age, and Cowper’s gentle natural scenes (Keith 1974; Williams 1973). Poetry and art combined to foster a popular enthusiasm for scenic landscapes. Paintings of picturesque scenes became the dominant fashion for patrons of art, who rushed to buy the landscapes of The armchair countryside 33 Claude, Reynolds, Gainsborough, Wilson and Gilpin to decorate the walls of their country houses and urban villas.

To their largely simple descriptions of nature in the familiar settings of the New England landscape, was added the more inspirational nature poetry of Emerson, Dickinson and Whitman. Emerson expressed his transcendental ideals as much in poetry as in prose. His poetic celebrations of the restorative powers of nature, where ‘the gods talk in the breath of the woods’, were widely published and did much to make him the icon of mid-nineteenth-century nature worship.

The rise of American agrarian ideology, as we have seen, was closely associated with the Puritan belief in the virtues of simple rural life as against the greed and cosmopolitanism of the city. The transcendentalism of Emerson and Thoreau was a call for living a life of simple subsistence in harmony with nature in a middle landscape between the city and the wilderness (Marx 1964). The anti-urbanism of the New England intellectuals later in the century was based on nostalgia for an earlier America when, in the words of their leading spokesman, Charles Eliot Norton, ‘habits of life were simpler; the interests of men less mixed and varied: there were more common sympathies, more common and more controlling traditions and associations’ (in Shi 1985:168).

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