In arranging these outlines and banks, we should study the effect at the points from which they will generally be viewed. Some pieces of water in valleys, are looked down upon from other and higher parts of the demesne; others (and this is most generally the case) are only seen from the adjoining walk, at some point or points where the latter approaches the lake. They are most generally seen from one, and seldom from more than two sides. When a lake is viewed from above, its contour should be studied as a whole; but when it is only seen from one or more sides or points, the beauty of the view from those positions can often be greatly increased by some trilling alterations in arrangement. A piece of water which is long and comparatively narrows appears extremely different in opposite points of view; if seen lengthwise from either extremity, its apparent breadth and extent is much increased; while, if the spectator be placed on one side and look across, it will seem narrow and insignificant. Now, although the form of an artificial lake of moderate size should never be much less in breadth than in length, yet the contrary is sometimes unavoidably the case; and being so, we should by all means avail ourselves of those well known laws in perspective, which will place them in the best possible position, relative to the spectator.
If the improver desire to render his banks still more picturesque, resembling the choicest features of natural banks, he should go a step further in arranging his materials before he introduces the water, or clothes the margin with vegetation. In analysing the finest portions of natural banks, it will be observed that their peculiar characteristics often depend on other objects besides the mere ground of the surrounding banks, and the trees and verdure with which they are clothed. These are, rocks of various size, forms, and colors, often projecting out of or holding up the bank in various places; stones sometimes imbedded in the soil, sometimes lying loosely along the shore; and lastly, old stumps of trees with gnarled roots, whose decaying hues are often extremely mellow and agreeable to the eye. All these have much to do with the expression of a truly picturesque bank, and cannot be excluded or taken away from it without detracting largely from its character. There is no reason, therefore, in an imitation of nature, why we should not make use of all her materials to produce a similar effect; and although in the raw and rude state of the banks at first, they may have a singular and rather crude aspect, stuck round and decorated here and there with large rocks, smaller stones, and old stumps of trees; yet it must be remembered that this is only the chaotic state, from which the new creation is to emerge more perfectly formed and completed; and also that the appearance of these rocks and stumps, when covered with mosses, and partially overgrown with a profusion of luxuriant vegetation and climbing plants, will be as beautifully picturesque after a little time has elapsed, as it is now uncouth and uninviting.
Islands generally contribute greatly to the beauty of a piece of water. They serve, still further, to increase the variety of outline, and to break up the wide expanse of liquid into secondary portions, without injuring the effect of the whole. The striking contrast, too, between their verdure, the color of their margins, composed of variously tinted soils and stones, and the still, smooth water around them, — softened and blended as this contrast is, by their shadows reflected back from the limpid element, gives additional richness to the picture.
The distribution of islands in a lake or pond requires some judgment. They will always appear most natural when sufficiently near the shore, on either side, to maintain in appearance some connection with it. Although islands do sometimes occur near the middle of natural lakes, yet the effect is by no means good, as it not only breaks and distracts the effects of the whole expanse by dividing it into two distinct parts, but it always indicates a shallowness or want of depth where the water should be deepest.
There are two situations where it is universally admitted that islands may be happily introduced. These are, at the inlet and the exit of the body of water. In many cases where the stream which supplies the lake is not remarkable for size, and will add nothing to the appearance of the whole view from the usual points of sight, it may be concealed by an island or small group of islands, placed at some little distance in front of it. The head or dam of a lake, too, is often necessarily so formal and abrupt, that it is difficult to make it appear natural and in good keeping with the rest of the margin. The introduction of an island or two, placed near the main shore, on either side, and projecting as far as possible before the dam, will greatly diminish this disagreeable formality, particularly if well clothed with a rich cover of shrubs and overhanging bushes.
Except in these two instances, islands should be generally placed opposite the salient points of the banks, or near those places where small breaks or promontories run out into the water. In such situations, they will increase the irregularity of the outline, and lend it additional spirit and animation. Should they, on the other hand, be seated in or near the marginal curve and indentations, they will only serve to clog up these recesses; and while their own figures are lost in these little bays where they are hidden, by lessening the already existing irregularities, they will render the whole outline tame and spiritless.*
On one or two of these small islands, little rustic habitations, if it coincide with the taste of the proprietor, may be made for different aquatic birds or waterfowl, which will much enliven the scene by their fine plumage. Among these the swan is pre-eminent, for its beauty and gracefulness. Abroad, they are the almost constant accompaniments of water in the ground of country residences; and it cannot be denied that, floating about in the limpid wave, with their snow-white plumage and superbly curved necks, they are extremely elegant objects.