THE cultivation of the beautiful in Nature has been rightly considered an importat element in culture. The abstract, philosophical considerations, which render the esthetic purifying and elevating in its influence, are not the subject matter of this article. We seek to appropriate what is valuable and pleasing in the lessons which Nature, both in her simple and artistic forms - in all her varied aspects - teaches us, without inquiring into the peculiar constitution of the mind, which appreciates and craves the beautiful. We wish to cherish the memory of that great master spirit of Rural Taste, by carrying on the mission which it is his glory to have planted, which it was his ambition to spread in forms of beauty far and wide, and thus to blend the sad funereal tones with the joyous notes of hope and promise which Downing drew from the inspiration of nature. We hope to catch some of the echoes of his voice, which, like those of Tennyson's sweet song - "die in you rich sky. They faint on hill, on field, on river, And grow forever and forever".

Rural Taste is an ancient art, dating its origin back to the very infancy of the earth, when man was placed in the garden planted by the hand of God, " to dress and keep it." In all ages, and under all governments, this art has been fostered as the handmaid of prosperity, the purest form of beauty, and the fitting type of that repose and peacefulnese which religion and philosophy assume to be the legitimate inheritance of man. Royal munificence has been lavished on it, and the poor cottager has sought in its simple forms, his dearest pleasure. To excel in it has been the ambition of princes, and the pride of the governed. The far-famed hanging gardens of Babylon, and the Academic Groves where sages taught their lessons, attest this, the earliest, the most universal of arts. But for all its antiquity, Rural Taste has not grown old more than nature herself. Time-honored, still rejoicing in immortal youth, this art continues to rear its grand architectural monuments, to spread out its pleasing landscapes, and re-produce itself in fresh beauty to win our love. Being most nearly allied to nature, it has a language for every one, and with its soft, mellow voice, whispers something congenial to every heart.

Wherever there is an eye to observe, a mind to reflect, and the taste to appreciate, does admiration of the beautiful, in distinction from the useful, spring up.

The more rude the age, the less do we observe the indications of this love of nature. The Indian was willing to leave nature as he found it, content in gazing on the stars that spoke to him of the Good Spirit, in watching the stream that, like his own life, was ever moving on to some mysterious land, and the trees that, wild and uncultivated, like his own aspiring thoughts, were reaching upwards. On the contrary, the highly cultivated and imaginative Greek made everything around him artistic, invested every tree with a spirit, and every grove with a divinity. The Roman was more practical and stern in his nature, and esteemed this earth as his battle field, rather than his resting place, while the oriental nations made their gardens the synonyms of repose. At the present day the English seek for something stately and rare in their parks and gardens, while the French cultivate what is more showy and artificial.

We have not referred to the history of Rural Taste without a purpose. It has been seen that each nation strove to embody in its parks,gardens, pleasure grounds,and dwellings, the ideas peculiar to its own character, and the conclusion we wish to draw is, that we should do something more than imitate the models which the past has left us. The mission of Rural Taste in this country, is as peculiar and distinct as our institutions, and we cannot adopt the standards of other countries without sacrificing our own individuality. We confess to little sympathy with the notion that our tastes in the fine arts are all imported, and that we have no American connoisseurs in the principles of harmony and beauty. Under monarchical forms of government, it is well to dazzle the eye and blind the mind, but here we want no royal parks, or queenly gardens, but instead the evidence of a refinement as universal as the principle of liberty. The rules of art are unquestionably the same in all ages, the same principles of proportion and fitness obtain under all circumstances, but Taste is not absolute. There must be adaptation to the character and habits of a people, in order to constitute any work of Rural Art strictly tasteful.

The Grecian temple was beautiful in the extreme, but it was built to worship other divinities than the one true God. The eastern gardens were the very types of voluptuousness and sensual indulgence, and as such are not suited to the spirit of our day. The magnificent pleasure grounds of more modern times, are proofs of an extravagance which ill comports with the practical tendency of the age. We would not be understood to number ourselves among those who narrow everything down to the criterion of utility and profit, but we contend that Rural Art differs materially and essentially from Sculpture, Painting and Music, in that its forms are predetermined by the nature of the soil, the climate, and the occupation of the inhabitants of any given country. It is the mission of Rural Taste to improve, beautify and adorn the native soil, not to re-produce the scenery and products of foreign ones.

The greatest danger which at present threatens the interests of rural decoration in this country is that of imitating to too great an extent the examples of other and older nations. We plant foreign trees instead of native ones. We build Gothic or Grecian houses, without considering whether they are suited to our climate and wants, or harmonize with the surrounding scenery. We strive to fill our parks with something rare and imported, instead of adorning them with the equally beautiful and ornamental products of our own soil. This rivalry in importing foreign plants, fruits, and flowers is too nearly akin to the pedantry of those excessively travelled gentlemen who assume foreign airs - to the no small detriment of American independence - to be long pursued by intelligent cultivators. We ought, as tillers and beautifiers of the land, to win for ourselves the treasures which the earnest mind and the practical hand bring forth from mother earth.

It is an old adage that " he who follows must always be behind," and so the history of this country has thus far shown. It was not till Powers struck out for himself a bold and original course that he excelled in sculpture. So long as American authors followed implicit)- the teachings of European critics, we had no American literature; but when some dared to write to suit the tastes and demands of our own people, American authors soon obtained an acknowledged reputation. So too has it been with Rural Taste. We had no American houses, - save our log-houses - parks, or gardens, till Downing brought his own peerless ability to the work. However gratifying the results of his labors, what he has accomplished should be suggestive of more vigorous exertion.

We do not mean by anything we have said, that the established rules of art should not be studied, or that very much of foreign acquisition may not be added to our own improvements. We only wish to make prominent the idea that our efforts should be such as to stamp American talent, ingenuity and taste upon our Rural Art, as well as upon the more practical and useful products of our handi-work. It is manifestly useless to vie with crowned heads and princely coffers in rural decoration, and indeed magnificence and splendor are hardly compatible with democratic institutions. But one thing we can accomplish, if we will - we can make our whole country beautiful. The fact that a majority of the inhabitants of the rural districts hold the soil in fee simple - that intelligence and cultivation are more universal than in other countries, make this comparatively easy. Let cottage after cottage, in the length and breadth of our land, tell its tale of humble happiness and contentment - let trees, mile after mile, throw their refreshing shade on our highways - let flowers bloom along the walks of our obscurest laborers, as well as in the luxurious gardens of the wealthy, and we can well dispense with the more pretending mansion, the extensive park, and the costly green-house. In our gardens and around our houses, give us the emblems of quietness and repose.

Let our public squares be planted with the towering elm, the gigantic oak, and the stately maple, fit types of our freedom and strength, together with the pine, the fir, and the spruce, to symbolise the unfading nature of our institutions. Let fountains sparkle in the sunlight, and flowers perfume the free air; it will make the blood bound more joyously in our veins, and attach us more strongly to our native land. Let our homes be made attractive by the simple adornments, which a love of nature will suggest, and we shall be bound to them by a new tie, and drawn unconsciously into closer sympathy with the world around us.

There is no way in which real refinement so readily shows itself as in the decoration of a home. In the idea of refinement we include not only intellectual culture, but that harmony of mind and heart, that balance of thought and affection, which fits man for social life and endears him to his fellows. A coarse and vulgar nature sees nothing to admire in rural embellishment, while a truly cultivated man would as soon be in purgatory as forced to live away from the spot which his own hands have beautified, away from the shade of his favorite trees, and the fragrance of his loved flowers. It is true that men of high talent and superior culture are often so long separated from the country, that they forget the charms which it once had for them; yet place these men in favorable circumstances and they will turn as spontaneously to the tasteful arranging of houses, gardens, and grounds, as the vine to its support. It is a mode of expressing the finer feelings of humanity, and the capability of living for higher than selfish ends.

Other things being equal, the advancement of Rural Taste will be exactly commensurate with the progress of true refinement, and it is its proper mission to fix in home-like dwellings, in the living green of tree and shrub and vine, the tokens of the virtue and intelligence of our citizens.