Louis-Jean Desprez turns to another legendary city of the ancient world — Alexander’s capital in Egypt — to advocate in a dream view of Alexandria in construction what great ambitions might be aroused in the new king of Sweden, after his predecessor, who had been the architect’s great patron, had been assassinated.
There is much to be said about the place of city dreams in the imagination of those already too powerful, when even an emperor of the world like Elliot must imagine vast divisions of cities greater yet than he could build.
Yet, as the figures would know who turn from the old world under Reiss’s rainbow’s arc toward a resplendent vision of the new, any dream of a radical new urban order — even those of emperors (or Robert Moses) — is also tuned to the melody of that other Wordsworth who saw in ruins the “still sad music of humanity” and delighted in the melancholy lessons they could teach.
That might not be why students launched themselves upon observations of the rem- nants of time with such revelrous brio as we see in Charles Stanislas Léveillé’s caprice of a medieval ruin. Ironically it was the very uncorruption of ruins that drew scholars of ornament and order to them. Naked masonries seemed somehow larger and purer from the evident aspect of loneliness they wore, as — for example — a great palace that no longer served anyone but a shepherd for shade or a tree for anchor.