by Tom Stoppard
Arcadia Man and the Natural World Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Act.Scene)
Septimus: Well, so much for Mr. Noakes. He puts himself forward as a gentleman, a philosopher of the picturesque, a visionary who can move mountains and cause lakes, but in the scheme of the garden he is as the serpent. (1.1)
Septimus is being rather unfair to Mr. Noakes – after all, the gardener didn't tempt him to make love to Mrs. Chater, he just tattled on him to her husband. Septimus is stretching his metaphor to make the point that man's having power to manipulate nature doesn't make Mr. Noakes anything like God – he could be Satan instead.
Thomasina: If you could stop every atom in its position and direction, and if your mind could comprehend all the actions thus suspended, then if you were really, really good at algebra you could write the formula for all the future; and although nobody can be so clever as to do it, the formula must exist just as if one could. (1.1)
Thomasina is the first to state this theme that develops throughout the play: the idea that natural phenomena follow laws that can be described through math. Her suggestion here that human knowledge of nature could, theoretically, be all-encompassing, seems very different from the snatches of Romantic poetry we get throughout the play, where the mystery of nature is something to be preserved and appreciated.
Lady Croom: Where there is the familiar pastoral refinement of an Englishman's garden, here is an eruption of gloomy forest and towering crag, of ruins where there was never a house, of water dashing against rocks where there was neither spring nor a stone I could not throw the length of a cricket pitch. (1.1)
Lady Croom's words echo Septimus's metaphor of the serpent in the garden of Eden: just because Mr. Noakes is capable of transforming the garden in ways that seem almost magical doesn't mean that he should.