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we are unhurried and wise, we perceive that only great and worthy things have any permanent and absolute existence, that petty fears and petty pleasures are but the shadow of the reality. This is always exhilarating and sublime. By closing the eyes and slumbering, and consenting to be deceived by shows, men establish and confirm their daily life of routine and habit everywhere, which still is built on purely illusory foundations. Children, who play life, discern its true law and relations more clearly than men, who fail to live it worthily, but who think that they are wiser by experience, that is, by failure. I have read in a Hindoo book, that "there was a king's son, who, being expelled in infancy from his native city, was brought up by a forester, and, growing up to maturity in that state, imagined himself to belong to the barbarous race with which he lived. One of his father's ministers, having discovered him, revealed to him what he was, and the misconception of his character was removed, and he knew himself to be a prince.” “So the soul,” continues the Hindoo philosopher, "from the circumstances in which it is placed, mistakes its own character, until the truth is revealed to it by some holy teacher, and then it knows itself to be Brahm." I perceive that we inhabitants of New England live this mean life that we do because our vision does not penetrate the surface of things. (We think that that is which appears to be.) If a man should walk through this town and see only the reality, where, think you, would the “Mill-dam” go to? If he should give us an account of the realities he beheld there, we should not recognize the place in his description. Look at a meeting-house, or a court-house, or a jail, or a shop, or a dwelling-house, and say what that thing really is before a true gaze, and they would all go to pieces in your account of them. Men esteem truth remote, in the outskirts of the system, behind the farthest star, before Adam and after the last man. In eternity there is indeed something true and sublime. But all these times and places and occasions are now and here. God himself culminates in the present moment, and will never be more divine in the lapse of all the ages. And we are enabled to apprehend at all what is sublime and noble only by the perpetual instilling and drenching of the reality that surrounds us. The universe constantly and obediently answers to our conceptions; whether we travel fast or slow, the track is laid for us. Let us spend our lives in conceiving them. The poet or the artist never yet had so fair and noble a design but some of his posterity at least could accomplish it.
Let us spend one day as deliberately as Nature, and not be thrown off the track by every nutshell and mosquito's wing that falls on the rails. Let us rise early and fast, or breakfast gently and without perturbation; let company come and let company go, let the bells ring and the children cry-determined to make a day of it. Why should we knock under and go with the stream? Let us not be upset and overwhelmed in that terrible rapid and whirlpool called a dinner, situated in the meridian shallows. Weather this danger and you are safe, for the rest of the way is down hill. With unrelaxed nerves, with morning vigor, sail by it, looking another way, tied to the mast like Ulysses. If the engine whistles, let it whistle till it is hoarse for its pains. If the bell rings, why should we run? We will consider what kind of music they are like. Let us settle ourselves and work and wedge our feet downward through the mud and slush of opinion, and prejudice, and tradition, and delusion, and appearances, that alluvion which covers the globe, through Paris and London, through New York and Boston and Concord, through church and state, through poetry and philosophy and religion, till we come to a hard bottom and rocks in place, which we can call reality, and say, This is, and no mistake; and then begin, having a point d'appui, below freshet and frost and fire, a place where you might found a wall or a state, or set a lamp-post safely, or perhaps a gauge, not a nilometer, but a “realometer," that future ages might know how deep a freshet of shams and appearances had gathered from time to time. If you stand right fronting and face to face to a fact, you will see the sun glimmer on both its surfaces, as if it were a cimeter, and feel its sweet edge dividing you through the heart and marrow, and so you will happily conclude your mortal career. Be it life or death, we crave only reality. If we are really dying, let us hear the rattle in our throats and feel cold in the extremities; if we are alive, let us go about our business.
Time is but the stream I go a-fishing in. I drink at it; but while I drink I see the sandy bottom and detect how shallow it is. Its thin current slides away, but eternity remains. I would drink deeper; fish in the sky, whose bottom is pebbly with stars. I cannot count one. I know not the first letter of the alphabet. I have always been regretting that I was not as wise as the day I was born. The intellect is a cleaver; it discerns and rifts its way into the secret of things. I do not wish to be any more busy with my hands than is necessary. My head is hands and feet. I feel all my best faculties concentrated in it. My instinct tells me that my head is an organ for burrowing, as some creatures use their snout and fore-paws, and with it I would mine and burrow my way through these hills. I think that the richest vein is somewhat hereabouts; so by the divining rod and thin rising vapors I judge; and here I will begin to mine.
John Ruskin, the only child of John James Ruskin, a wealthy wine-merchant, was born in London in 1819. His father, who was fond of good pictures and good books, gave the boy ample opportunity to develop an appreciation for both. He entered Christ Church, Oxford, in 1836. Ill health protracted his stay at Oxford, but he took his degree in 1842. Although his original intention was to enter the Church, he turned to the writing of literature. He became professor in the Cambridge School of Art, lecturer in Cambridge University, and professor of fine art in Oxford University; in addition to these things and to being founder of the Guild of St. George he was the author of over eighty books. In nearly every book he presented the teaching that "life without industry is guilt," and "industry without art is brutality.”
His first work of any importance was an extended essay on The Poetry of Architecture, written when he was eighteen, and his last, before his death in 1900, a Letter on Icelandic Industries; when he was seventy-one. For what he considered to be social betterment, he spent a fortune left him by his millionaire father ; and when his "collected works” were published he permitted only those books to be included which were definitely committed to his doctrine of art for life's sake. Though he was a great teacher, he was a somewhat impractical one, for he thought it not impossible that his pupils at Oxford and in the schools which he established in London and up in the Lake country might be so instructed as to see and learn only that which "the consent of the past has admitted to be beautiful and the experience of the past has ascertained to be true." By his contemporaries, Tennyson, Arnold, Browning, Sydney Smith, Wordsworth, Huxley, Tyndall, and Carlyle, he was carefully read, not for his brilliant word-painting, but for the fundamental brain work they found in his books. Mazzini once said that Ruskin had “the most analytic mind in Europe.” The books of Ruskin more read than any others have been Modern Painters, Stones of Venice, and Seven Lamps of Architecture. Probably those which will endure longest, however, will be The Two Paths, Unto This Last, Fors Clavigera, and Praeterita, for in these their author did what is almost unique in literature, namely, took down, as it were, the four walls of his mind, and spoke from his inner spirit, in most
1 Delivered in the Town Hall, Bradford, April 21, 1864; later published in the volume entitled The Crown of Wild Olives.
of them letting the reader feel as if he were hearing the author think aloud. Ruskin's style was always clear and luminous, of a highly poetic nature, and full of both energy and delicacy; yet it varied from being in his early days somewhat declamatory, emphatic, and strident, to his latest style of simple and almost artless expression.
My good Yorkshire friends, you asked me down here among your hills that I might talk to you about this Exchange you are going to build ; but, earnestly and seriously asking you to pardon me, I am going to do nothing of the kind. I cannot talk, or at least can say very little, about this same Exchange. I must talk of quite other things, though not willingly; I could not deserve your pardon, if, when you invited me to speak on one subject,
wilfully spoke on another. But I cannot speak, to purpose, of anything about which I do not care; and most simply and sorrowfully I have to tell you, in the outset, that I do not care about this Exchange of yours.
If, however, when you sent me your invitation, I had answered, “I won't come, I don't care about the Exchange of Bradford," you would have been justly offended with me, not knowing the reasons of so blunt a carelessness. So I have come down, hoping that you will patiently let me tell you why, on this, and many other such occasions, I now remain silent, when formerly I should have caught at the opportunity of speaking to a gracious audience.
In a word, then, I do not care about this Exchange because you don't; and because you know perfectly well I cannot make you. Look at the essential conditions of the case, which you, as business men, know perfectly well, though perhaps you think I forget them. You are going to spend £30,000, which to you, collectively, is nothing; the buying a new coat is, as to the cost of it, a much more important matter of consideration to me, than building a new Exchange is to you. But you think you