Light and Shade

After political events of the past week, many people across the globe are understandably overwhelmed with feelings of melancholia and premonitions of catastrophe. However the study of history teaches us that our forebears went through worse afflictions – and somehow survived. They faced infinitely more terrible examples of hatred and low conduct, and found the strength to carry on. They did so because, for all its failings and foibles, the human spirit is resilient. So too is the urge, the need to create beauty, even in the midst of turmoil and disorder. The determination of previous generations to overcome adversity, and to find the beautiful in the midst of ugliness can serve as our own inspiration.

The gardens at Huntington Castle, County Carlow demonstrate how beauty is able to survive across centuries of war and upheaval. The origins of settlement here go back to the Middle Ages when a Franciscan friary was established on the site: a souvenir of that period is the Yew Walk, comprising 120 English yews planted along a stretch of ground 130 yards long and believed to be at least six centuries old. In the 17th century the property passed into the ownership of the Esmondes who in the 1680s laid out much of the rest of what can be seen today, including the parterre and a French lime avenue. Other elements from this period include the stew ponds (for the cultivation of fish that could be eaten) and an ornamental lake, while later work further enhanced the gardens thanks to various specimen trees that continue to thrive. More recent additions include the creation of a rose garden and the planting of thousands of snowdrops.

The gardens at Huntington remain an ongoing project, tended by the latest generation of the family that first came here almost 400 years ago. Over that period, and well before, this country experienced many instances of upheaval, war, famine and other dreadful afflictions. And yet somehow the gardens at Huntington not only endured but were regularly augmented and improved by their owners. Those owners and the outcome of their labour offer us an example of how, even under the worst circumstances, the human spirit continues to crave beauty. Taken one afternoon in early autumn, today’s photographs show that light and shade naturally co-exist, without the latter ever being able to crush the former. In these dark days, we should remember that. The light still shines through.

More on Huntington Castle in the coming weeks…

11 comments on “Light and Shade

  1. Yvonne Howard says:

    What a lovely way to start my day! Thank you Irish Aesthete for today’s article on Huntington castle. In these turbulent times your beautiful photographs and soothing sensible words to go with them are a balm. Yvonne Howard

    Sent from my iPhone

  2. upsew says:

    Such a lovely reflective piece….. your words are beautifully thought out, and the photographs of the castle and grounds are gorgeous, I love the simplicity of the landscaping.

  3. Thank you, Robert, for an uplifting and gorgeous post! Xx

  4. Vibeke says:

    Thank you Robert, it was indeed good to remember how how resilient those who went before us were!

  5. Brian Terry says:

    Thank you for this. Truly. As an American who feels completely broadsided by the outcome of our recent election and feels the chill cast over my country right now, your post indeed shows light upon the shade of my own current mood 🙂

  6. Helen Meany says:

    Thank you, Robert, for this reflection. Your photographs are eloquent also. Helen

  7. Justin Caldwell says:

    Your words are greatly appreciated here on the far side of the Atlantic. I’m very much looking forward to more photographs of Huntington.

  8. Robert Kühn says:

    I came just across researching for buildings in Carlow and found this incredible castle. It is like the perfect building for light and shade and its calmness! Even saw that you have a lot of regions here so I have to stumble around 😉

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