I quoted recently from Robert Pogue Harrison’s recent Gardens: An Essay on the Human Condition. Here are a couple more passages that I liked.
…[I]n the final analysis we must always remember that nature has its own order and that human gardens do not, as one hears so often, bring order to nature; rather, they give order to our relation to nature.
…[T]here is in the Versailles gardens an aesthetic drive to tame, and even humiliate, nature into submission…
While we long ago ceased to credit doctrines regarding the divine right of kings, and while few among us believe we are living in an age of enlightenment, we still have not sufficiently dismantled the doctrine of humanity’s divine right, which in many ways still reigns supreme in contemporary Western societies, in practice if not in theory. For all its perverse beauty and wondrous transfiguration of pride, Versailles will not be of much help to us when it comes to finding a less presumptuous relationship to nature than the one bestowed upon us by that era.
In the interest of full self-disclosure I’ve never visited the massive formal gardens of Louis XIV at Versailles, but I think I’d feel awestruck and spiritually injured at the same time. The author captures my squeamishness perfectly.