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Prom Dawn To Dawn In The Alps.
Stand upon the peak of some isolated mountain at daybreak, when the night mists first rise from off the plains, and watch their white and lakelike fields, as they float in level bays and winding gulfs, about the islanded summits of the lower hills, untouched yet by more than dawn, colder and more quiet than a windless sea under the moon of midnight; watch when the first sunbeam is sent upon the silver channels, how the foam of their undulating surface parts and passes away, and down under their depths the glittering city and green pasture lie like Atlantis between the white paths of winding rivers; the flakes of light falling every moment faster and broader among the starry spires, as the wreathed surges break and vanish above them, and the confused crests and ridges of the dark hills shorten their gray shadows upon the plain. Has Claude given this? Wait a little longer, and you shall sec those scattered mists rallying in the ravines, and floating up toward you, along tho winding valleys, till they couch in quiet masses, iridescent with the morning light, upon the broad breasts of the higher hills, whose leagues of massive undulation will melt back and back into that robe of material light, until they fade away, lost in its lustre, to appear again above, in the serene heaven, like a wild, bright, impossible dream, foundationless and inaccessible, the very bases vanishing in the unsubstantial and mocking blue of the deep lake below. Has Claude given this? Wait yet a little longer, and you shall sec those mists gather themselves into white towers, and stand like fortresses along the promontories, massy and motionless, only piled every instant higher and higher into the sky, and easting longer shadows athwart the rocks, and out of the pale blue of the horizon you will see forming and advancing a troop of narrow, dark, pointed vapors which will cover the sky, inch by inch, with their gray net-work, and take the light off the landscape with an eclipse which will stop the singing of the birds and the motion of the leaves, together; and then you will see horizontal bars of black shadow forming under them, and lurid wreaths create themselves, you know not how, along the shoulders of the hills; you never see them form, but when you look back to a place which was clear "an instant ago, there is a cloud on it, hanging by the precipices, as a hawk pauses over his prey. Has Claude given this? And then you will hear the sudden rush of awakened wind, and you will sec those watch-towers of vapors sweep away from their foundations, and waving curtains of opaque rain let down to the valleys, swinging from the burdened clouds in black bending fringes, or pacing in pale columns along the lake level, grazing its surface into foam as they go. And then, as the sun sinks, you shall see the storm drift for an instant from off the hills, leaving their broad sides smoking, and loaded yet with snow-white, torn, steam-like rays of capricious vapor, now gone, now gathered again, while the smouldering sun, seeming not far away, but burning like a red-hot ball beside you, and as if you could reach it, plunges through the rushing wind and rolling cloud with headlong fall, as if it meant to rise no more, dyeing all the air about it with blood. Has Claude given this? And then you shall hear the fainting tempest die in the hollow of the night, and you shall sec a green halo kindling on the summit of the eastern hills, brighter—brighter yet, till the large white circle of the slow moon is lifted up among the barred clouds, step by step, line by line; star after star she quenches with her kindling light, setting in their stead an army of pale, penetrable, fleecy wreaths in the heavens, to give light upon the earth, which move together, hand in hand, company by company, troop by troop, so measured in their unity of motion that the whole heaven seems to roll with them, and the earth to reel under them. Ask Claude, or his brethren, for that. And then wait yet for one hour, until the east again becomes purple, and the heaving mountains, rolling against it m darkness, like waves of a wild sea, are drowned one by one in the glory of its burning; watch the white glaciers blaze in their winding paths about the mountains, like mighty serpents with scales of fire: watch the columnar peaks of solitary snow, kindling downward, chasm by chasm, each in itself a new morning; their long avalanches cast down in keen streams brighter than the lightning, sending each his tribute of driven snow, like altar - smoke, up to the heaven: the rose-light of their silent domes flushing that heaven about them and above them, piercing with purer light through its purple lines of lifted cloud, casting a new glory on every wreath as it passes by, until the whole heaven, one scarlet canopy, is interwoven with a roof of waving flame, and tossing, vault beyond vault, as with the drifted wings of many companies of angels: and then, when you can look no more for gladness, and when you are bowed down with fear and love of the Maker and Doer of this, tell me who has delivered his message unto men I"
In his recent books Mr. Ruskin has pooh-poohed the first volume of Modern Painters, and in a note appended to the above passage in a volume of selections from his works, lately published, he laughs genially at his former self, observing upon FIRST VOLUME OF MODERN PAINTERS.
the uncomfortable or non-existent arrangements for breakfast and dinner, during this contemplation, at least twenty-four hours long, of Alpine phenomena. But, in truth, that great first volume was not only the basis of his fame, but authoritatively displays the foundation on which the general achievement of his life was reared. The thorough and comprehensive acquaintance with nature which it reveals prepared him for all he has done. It is one of those first books which the authors who produced them have subsequently referred to with depreciation, but which the world has, with just obstinacy, continued to admire. Goethe lived to think very little of Wcrthcr, Schiller to smile at the extravagance of The Robbers; but the world thinks, and thinks rightly, that Werther, whatever its defects, is worth more than the second part of Faust; and Schiller certainly never showed more magnificent imaginative strength than in the character of Karl Moor, the love-song of Amelia, and the meeting of Brutus and Caisar in the land of ghosts. By a sure instinct the heart of the world has taken to those books, which have on them the glory and freshness of the morning, the artless exuberant splendor of genius in its dawn.
HIS THEORY THAT BEAUTY IS TYPICAL OF THE DIVINE ATTRIBUTES.
TN the second volume of Modern Painters Ruskin propounded the theory that beauty in nature, except in so far as it is the manifestation of happy life in organic things, is typical of moral perfection, and emblematic of the attributes of God. This volume was written when he was strongly under the influence of Hooker, whose long, melodious periods arc its model in style, and whose reverent enthusiasm of Christian faith, hope, and charity is its pervading spirit. In the preceding volume we had the facts of nature. This volume adds their consecration through the Divine light falling on them. It will be worth our while to follow Ruskin's finger as he traces that light. He first specifies the fact or quality of natural beauty, and then specifies its typical significance.
Infmity, as suggested by many aspects of nature — by the traceless delicacy of curvature in lines of mountain undulation and of forest branches—by the light on distant horizons—by "the still small voice of the level twilight behind purple hills, or the scarlet arch of dawn over the dark troublous-edged sea" —is, for him, the type of Divine incomprehensibility. He points out that the power of such distances upon the mind does not depend on richness or splendor of color. "In the blue of the rainy sky, in the many tints of morning flowers, in the sunlight on summer foliage and field, there arc more sources of mere sensual color-pleasure than in the single streak of wan and dying light. It is not, then, by nobler form, it is not by positiveness of hue, it is not by intensity of light (for the sun
itself at noonday is effectless upon the feelings), that this strange distant space possesses its attractive power. But there is one thing that it has, or suggests, which no other object of sight suggests in equal degree, and that is—Infinity. It is of all visible things the least material, the least finite, the farthest withdrawn from the earth prison-house, the most typical of the nature of God, the most suggestive of the glory of his dwelling-place." The expression of infinity he alleges to be an unfailing characteristic of noble and joy-giving art. "If there be any one grand division by which it is at all possible to set the productions of painting, so far as their mere plan or system is concerned, on our right and left hands, it is this of light and dark background, of heaven light or of object light." He knows no "truly great painter" of any time who did not take " the most intense pleasure" in his luminous distances; nor is he aware that, except in the case of Rembrandt—" and then under peculiar circumstances only "—the use of dark backgrounds was associated with high power of intellect . The great Florentines—Giotto, Angclico, Perugino, Raphael in his early period, the great Venetians—Carpaccio, John Bellini, Giorgione, Titian, Tintoret, rejoiced in distant open sky and clouds on remote horizons touched with white sunlight; and the grand tradition of luminous distance was handed on to Claude, Gasper Poussin, and the modern masters of landscape. I do not remember that Ruskin has said, but he might have said with perfect truth, that no artist ever more deeply felt the value of distant light in landscape than Turner, and that no landscapes are comparable with his for the suggestion of infinity. Ruskin is careful to say that he does not narrowly require his reader to accept his interpretation of nature's facts into their Divine or moral analogies; and I confess that the rose of dawn on the horizon of stormy sea, and the pale gleam beneath the skirts of the thunder-cloud, and other landscape aspects which beckon us on toward the infinite, seem to me to suggest not only the Divine