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indeed his dwelling place: “Swear not, neither by heaven, for it is God's throne; nor by the earth, for it is his footstool!” And all of those passings to and fro of fruitful showers and grateful shade, and all those visions of silver palaces built about the hori. zon, and voices of moaning winds and threatening thunders, and glories of colored robe and cloven ray, are but to deepen in our hearts the acceptance, and distinctness, and dearness, of the simple words, “Our Father, which art in heaven.”
Complete as edited from Modern Painters >>
in «Frondes Agrestes."
PRINCIPLES OF ART
DERFECT taste is the faculty of receiving the greatest possible
pleasure from those material sources which are attractive to
our moral nature in its purity and perfection; but why we receive pleasure from some forms and colors and not from others is no more to be asked or answered than why we like sugar and dislike wormwood.
The temper by which right taste is formed is characteristically patent. It dwells upon what is submitted to it. It does not trample upon it, - lest it should be pearls, even though it look like husks. It is good ground, penetrable, retentive; it does not send up thorns of unkind thoughts, to choke the weak seed; it is hungry and thirsty too, and drinks all the dew that falls on it. It is an honest and good heart, that shows no too ready springing before the sun be up, but fails not afterwards; it is distrustful of itself, so as to be ready to believe and to try all things, and yet so trustful of itself, that it will neither quit what it has tried, nor take anything without trying. And the pleasure which it has in things that it finds true and good is so great, that it cannot possibly be led aside by any tricks of fashion, or diseases of vanity; it cannot be cramped in its conclusions by partialities and hypocrisies; its visions and its delights are too penetrating, - too living, - for any whitewashed object or shallow fountain long to endure or supply. It clasps all that it loves so hard that it crushes it if it be hollow.
It is the common consent of men that whatever branch of any pursuit ministers to the bodily comforts, and regards material uses, is ignoble, and whatever part is addressed to the mind only, is noble; and that geology does better in reclothing dry bones and revealing lost creations, than in tracing veins of lead and beds of iron; astronomy better in opening to us the houses of heaven than in teaching navigation; botany better in displaying structure than in expressing juices; surgery better in investigating organization than in setting limbs. Only it is ordained that, for our encouragement, every step we make in the more exalted range of science adds something also to its practical applicabili. ties; that all the great phenomena of nature, the knowledge of which is desired by the angels only, by us partly, as it reveals to further vision the being and the glory of him in whom they rejoice and we live, dispense yet such kind influences and so much of material blessing as to be joyfully felt by all inferior creatures, and to be desired by them with such single desire as the imperfection of their nature may admit; that the strong torrents, which, in their own gladness, fill the hills with hollow thunder, and the vales with winding light, have yet their bounden charge of field to feed, and barge to bear; that the fierce flames to which the Alp owes its upheaval and the volcano its terror, temper for us the metal vein, and warm the quickening spring; and that for our excitement, I say, not our reward, — for knowledge is its own reward, - herbs have their healing, stones their preciousness, and stars their times.
Had it been ordained by the Almighty * that the highest pleasures of sight should be those of most difficult attainment, and that to arrive at them it should be necessary to accumulate gilded palaces, tower over tower, and pile artificial mountains around insinuated lakes, there would never have been a direct contradiction between the unselfish duties and the inherent desires of every individual. But no such contradiction exists in the system of Divine Providence; which, leaving it open to us if we will, as creatures in probation, to abuse this sense like every other, and pamper it with selfish and thoughtless vanities, as we pamper the palate with deadly meats, until the appetite of tasteful cruelty is lost in its sickened satiety, incapable of pleasure, unless, Caligula like, it concentrates the labor of a million of lives into the sensation of an hour, leaves it also open to us,—by hum
* The reader must observe that, having been thoroughly disciplined in the evangelical schools, I supposed myself, at four-and-twenty, to know all about the ordinances of the Almighty. Nevertheless, the practical contents of the sentence are good if only they are intelligible, which I doubt.
ble and loving ways, to make ourselves susceptible of deep delight, which shall not separate us from our fellows, nor require the sacrifice of any duty or occupation, but which shall bind us closer to men and to God, and be with us always, harmonized with every action, consistent with every claim, unchanging and eternal.
A great idealist never can be egotistic. The whole of his power depends upon his losing sight and feeling of his own existence, and becoming a mere witness and mirror of truth, and a scribe of visions - always passive in sight, passive in utterance, lamenting continually that he cannot completely reflect nor clearly utter all he has seen — not by any means a proud state for a man to be in. But the man who has no invention is always setting things in order,* and putting the world to rights, and mending, and beautifying, and pluming himself on his doings, as supreme in all ways.
So far as education does indeed tend to make the senses del icate, and the perceptions accurate, and thus enables people to be pleased with quiet instead of gaudy color; and with graceful instead of coarse form; and by long acquaintance with the best things, to discern quickly what is fine from what is common — so far acquired taste is an honorable faculty, and it is true praise of anything to say, it is “in good taste.” But so far as this higher education has a tendency to narrow the sympathies and harden the heart, diminishing the interest of all beautiful things by familiarity, until even what is best can hardly please, and what is brightest hardly entertain — so far as it fosters pride, and leads men to found the pleasure they take in any. thing, not on the worthiness of the thing, but on the degree in which it indicates some greatness of their own (as people build marble porticoes, and inlay marble floors, not so much because they like the colors of marble, or find it pleasant to the foot, as because such porches and floors are costly, and separated in all human eyes from plain entrances of stone and timber),– so far as it leads people to prefer gracefulness of dress, manner, and aspect, to value of substance and heart, liking a well-said thing better than a true thing, and a well-trained manner better than a sincere one, and a delicately-formed face better than a good
*I am now a comic illustration of this sentence, myself. I have not a ray of invention in all my brains; but am intensely rational and orderly, and have resolutely begun to set the world to rights.
natured one - and in all other ways and things setting custom and semblance above everlasting truth — so far, finally, as it induces a sense of inherent distinction between class and class, and causes everything to be more or less despised which has no social rank, so that the affection, pleasure, or grief of a clown are looked upon as of no interest compared with the affection and grief of a well-bred man — just so far in all these several ways, the feeling induced by what is called «a liberal education ” is utterly adverse to the understanding of noble art.
He who habituates himself in his daily life to seek for the stern facts in whatever he hears or sees will have these facts again brought before him by the involuntary imaginative power, in their noblest associations; and he who seeks for frivolities and fallacies will have frivolities and fallacies again presented to him in his dreams. *
All the histories of the Bible are yet waiting to be painted. Moses has never been painted; Elijah never; David never (except as a mere ruddy stripling); Deborah never; Gideon never; Isaiah never.t What single example does the reader remember of painting which suggested so much as the faintest shadow of their deeds ? Strong men in armor, or aged men with flowing beards, he may remember, who, when he looked at his Louvre or Uffizii catalogue, he found were intended to stand for David or Moses. But does he suppose that, if these pictures had suggested to him the feeblest image of the presence of such men, he would have passed on, as he assuredly did, to the next picture representing, doubtless, Diana and Actæon, or Cupid and the Graces, or a gambling quarrel in a pothouse - with no sense of pain or surprise ? Let him meditate over the matter, and he will find ultimately that what I say is true, and that religious art at once complete and sincere never yet has existed.
* Very good. Few people have any idea how much more important the government of the mind is than the force of its exertion. Nearly all the world flog their horses, without ever looking where they are going.
J. R. 7 I knew nothing, when I wrote this passage, of Luini, Filippo Lippi, or Sandro Botticelli; and had not capacity to enter into the deeper feelings even of the men whom I was chiefly studying,– Tintoret and Fra Angelico. But the British public is at present as little acquainted with the greater Florentines as I was then, and the passage, for them, remains true.
J. R. Complete as edited in «Frondes Agrestes » from «Modern Painters. The WORK
notes are Ruskin's own.
W ise work is, briefly, work with God. Foolish work is work V against God. And work done with God, which he will
help, may be briefly described as “Putting in Order," — that is, enforcing God's law of order, spiritual and material, over men and things. The first thing you have to do, essentially; the real good work” is, with respect to men, to enforce justice, and, with respect to things, to enforce tidiness and fruitfulness. And against these two great human deeds, justice and order, there are perpetually two great demons contending, - the devil of iniquity, or inequity, and the devil of disorder, or of death; for death is only consummation of disorder. You have to fight these two fiends daily. So far as you don't fight against the fiend of iniquity, you work for him. You work iniquity," and the judgment upon you, for all your “Lord, Lord's,” will be « Depart from me, ye that work iniquity." And so far as you do not resist the fiend of disorder, you work disorder, and you yourself do the work of Death, which is sin, and has for its wages, Death himself.
Observe, then, all wise work is mainly threefold in character. It is honest, useful, and cheerful.
It is honest. I hardly know anything more strange than that you recognize honesty in play, and you do not in work. In your lightest games, you have always some one to see what you call « fair play.” In boxing you must hit fair; in racing, start fair. Your English watchword is Fair play; your English hatred, Foul play. Did it ever strike you that you wanted another watchword also, Fair work, and another hatred also, Foul work? Your prize fighter has some honor in him yet; and so have the men in the ring round him: they will judge him to lose the match, by foul hitting. But your prize merchant gains his match by foul selling, and no one cries out against that. You drive a gambler out of the gambling room who loads dice, but you leave a tradesman in flourishing business who loads scales! For observe, all dishonest dealing is loading scales. What does it matter whether I get short weight, adulterate substance, or dishonest fabric? The fault in the fabric is incomparably the worst of the two. Give me short measure of food, and I only lose by you; but give me adulterate food, and I die by you. Here, then, is your chief duty, you workmen and tradesmen — to be true to