Fountain Villa Borghese, Now Villa Umberto Primo

A garden where the centuries

Of men have come and none did care
Save for the green grass and the breeze
And shelter from the noontide glare.
But that which makes the garden fair-
The sense of Life’s futility,
Is deathless beauty. Born of Death,
It blossoms under cloudless skies-
One’s very dream of Italy.

-From an unpublished MS.

Such a garden was the Villa Borghese; and such a garden it still is, in spite of constant desecration. This is the home of the most poetic of Bernini’s fountains. It
stands on the summit of a rising avenue, yet it does not terminate a vista, it makes itself a part of one, for the avenue continues after the fountain has been reached. It stands in full but tempered sunlight, girt about by a circle of box hedges and ilex trees, with here and there a tall stone pine. The lower basin lies in the turf, like a natural pool, and the water fills it to the brim. It reflects the trees and clouds in its quiet depths, or as the little breeze ruffles the surface, it gives back the sunshine like a broken mirror. Single shafts of water, spouting upward from between the forefeet of the sea¬≠horses, fall back into the same basin from which they rose, curving like the arches of a pergola; yet so steady is their flow that the tranquillity of the pool is hardly troubled. Four foam-flecked circles, only, show where the falling water mingles with the water at rest. Greater peacefulness could not well be given to any artificial bit of water. Then from the centre of this dreaming pool there rises a fountain so rich in carving, so beautiful in design that it seems rather a great and splendid efflorescence than the work of men’s hands. From its leaf-fringed lower basin there rises a second and much smaller one, not like another basin but like a corolla within a corolla, and the flower-like composition terminates in a beautifully wrought cup resembling the blossom of the campanula. The water gushes upward from this cup, but not to any height. It falls back at once over the scalloped edges of the marble, and slipping in and over the carved foliage of the lower basins finally reaches, in a gentle, pensive manner, the
quiet pool beneath. Sea-horses with tossed manes and backward curving wings plunge outward from the shelter of the lower basin.

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