3 The Notsegel (or Alarm Sail), representing Psyche, at the side of the lake. May morning sunrise.
But I never wanted the visual inheritance of the garden to crowd out its ‘poetic courage’;2 I knew that a garden should be responsible to paradise, but I wanted, like the pastoral elegists, to ‘place sorrow’ there as well.3 I valued the recreational garden, but not as much as I valued Psyche (or the soul). What could she bring to the garden, I wondered? I was haunted at the threshold (of the site, as well as of my undertaking) by a sentence I had read about her in Julia Kristeva’s book Black Sun: ‘without a bent for melancholia, there is no psyche, only a transition to action or play.’4 Too many gardens I instinctively realized essentially functioned like that: as seamless, recreational attempts on paradise, with no acknowledgement of Psyche – or the dark, refl exive gap she introduces into experience – which is where we can pause to remember what space means to us, in a state of humble gratitude as well as troubled exile, after the fi at of Expulsion. I use a biblical reference only because the paradigm of Eden is still the dominant one in garden culture in the West. But Gethsemane, as well as Eden, was a garden. Why, then, I wondered, unlike the other arts, do gardens so seldom acknowledge that?5
Psyche is present often in the garden (fig. 3) [G];6 one of many such mythic figures or gods who have become domiciled at Plaz Metaxu, and are borrowed, almost always, from the Greek pantheon. Many areas of the garden are named after, and dedicated to, such fi gures. This may be an unfamiliar enough circumstance today to require an explanation. Of course, reference to gods (not necessarily of the ‘classical’ variety) was widespread, and even usual, in gardens before the nineteenth century. Today, with a few notable exceptions, such as Finlay’s reinvention of a ‘hyperborean’ Apollo at Little Sparta, such references have descended into kitsch.7 Yet ‘modern’ Western culture is not as immune to taking the afterlife of the gods seriously as the ethos of contemporary gardening leads us to suppose. We have only to think of Nietzsche’s use of Dionysos and Apollo,8 or Freud’s use of Narcissus, Eros, Thanatos and Oedipus,9 as key determinants of cultural behaviour, to realize how mistaken it is to suppose the gods are dead. I am not a classicist. My familiarity with the Greek gods, in particular, does, of course, derive in part from the texts, say, of Homer, Euripides and Ovid
(in translation), but it is also mediated through other channels: Renaissance art and Poussin, for example, or the poetry of Hölderlin (for Chiron and Mnemosyne, say)10 and Rilke (Orpheus).11 An abiding inspiration has also been archetypal psychology, especially the work of James Hillman, which not only reads the myths into our lived experience today with moving acumen and insight, but bravely holds out (against scientific orthodoxies) for a ‘poetic basis of mind’, as well as privileging a polytheistic temper.12
Archetypal psychology is closer to art than it is to science in its respect for the imagination. It accords high status to the realm of the ‘imaginal’
ON PSYCHE’S LAWN