Offended by Symbolism

…The utter unfitness of the symbols employed in the way of ornament – fresh water running from salt sea-shells, or pouring from the mouths of marine monsters and heads of grotesque animals, such as we find at the waste water-spouts of medieval buildings; apart from the complete absurdity of the streams flowing through animals, it does not accord with our notions of purity to drink from the mouths of beasts. The idea is simply disgusting, and should never be resorted to for fountains intended to supply water exclusively for drinking. As an example of the objectionable introduction of such ornaments, we may cite the fountains under the portico of the British Museum, which, in other respects, are extremely beautiful, formed of pure white marble, to which are appended elegant classical cups, ‘silvered o’er,’ that may well tempt the visitor to partake of the cooling draught. Yet in these the water flows from gasping mouths, and is given on from the protruded tongues of lions. In the wide range of nature, there are surely objects enough of beauty to supply emblems appropriate to the subject, and befitting the occasion – the graceful plants and flowers that fringe our running streams offer an endless variety for agreeable illustration and ornament.

South Australian Register, 4 March 1861


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