Bishop Thomas Burnet argued that before the fall Nature had been organised in a patently mathematical way, and that since then it had been in continuous decay – an argument that might make it the duty of the gardener or place-maker to put nature right again, and by making its mathematical structure apparent, inevitably to restore it to beauty.
John Locke on the other hand established an alternative philosophical position for accepting Nature as it is as the complete work.
Many gardeners will find a place on the bench next to Isaac Newton. He straddled both lines of thought, at the same time basing his theories on meticulous scientific experiment, and on the other, like Einstein, always seeking for the single unifying idea, which Newton believed to have been handed down by God.
Less rigorously logical minds still distinguished between the two ideas of beauty, and asked the question that arises from them: is unimproved countryside an incoherent muddle, or is there an underlying harmony in its ‘natural error’? This is the problem addressed by the war-poet Edward Thomas in ‘Tall Nettles’. The title is enough: in times of difficulty we find safety and constancy in the countryside. What is, is as it should be.