페이지 이미지
PDF
ePub
[merged small][ocr errors]

ings on political economy to lie in this twofold characteristic, I shall quote the passage.

Nature And Man.

Among the hours of his life to which the writer looks back with peculiar gratitude, as having been marked by more than ordinary fulness of joy or clearness of teaching, is one passed, now some years ago, near time of sunset, among the broken masses of pine forest which skirt the course of the Ain, above the village of Champagnole, in the Jura. It is a spot which has all the solemnity, with none of the savageness, of the Alps; where there is a sense of a great power beginning to be manifested in the earth, and of a deep and majestic concord in the rise of the long, low lines of piny hills; the first utterance of those mighty mountain symphonies, soon to be more loudly lifted and wildly broken along the battlements of the Alps. But their strength is as yet restrained, and the far-reaching ridges of pastoral mountain succeed each other, like the long and sighing swell which moves over quiet waters from some far-off stormy sea. And there is a deep tenderness pervading that vast monotony. The destructive forces and the stem expression of the central ranges are alike withdrawn. No frost-ploughed, dust-encumbered paths of ancient glacier fret the soft Jura pastures; no splintered heaps of ruin break the fair ranks of her forests; no pale, defiled, or furious rivers rend their rude and changeful ways among her rocks. Patiently, eddy by eddy, the clear green streams wind along their well-known beds; and under the dark quietness of the undisturbed pines there spring up, year by year, such company of joyful flowers as I know not the like of among all the blessings of the earth. It was spring-time, too; and all were coming forth in clusters crowded for very love; there was room enough for all, but they crushed their leaves into all manner of strange shapes only to be nearer each other. There was the wood-anemone, star after star, closing every now and then into nebulie; and there was the oxalis, troop by troop, like virginal processions of the Mois de Marie, the dark vertical clefts in the limestone choked up with them as with heavy snow, and touched with ivy on the edges—ivy as light and lovely as the vine; and, ever and anon, a blue gush of violets, and cowslip bells in sunny places; and, in the more open ground, the vetch, and comfrey, and mezereon, and the small sapphire buds of the polygala Alpina, and the wild strawberry, just a blossom or two, all showered amidst the golden softness of deep, warm, amber-colored moss. I came out presently on the edge of the ravine: the solemn murmur of its waters rose suddenly from beneath, mixed with the singing of the thrushes among the pine boughs; and, on the opposite side of the valley, walled all along as it was by gray cliffs of limestone, there was a hawk sailing slowly off their brow, touching them nearly with his wings, and with the shadows of the pines flickering upon his plumage from above; but with a fall of a hundred fathoms under his breast, and the curling pools of the green river gliding and glittering dizzily beneath him, their foam-globes moving with him as he flew. It would be difficult to conceive a scene less dependent upon any other interest than that of its own secluded and serious beauty; but the writer well remembers the sudden blankness and chill which were cast upon it when he endeavored, in order more strictly to arrive at the sources of its impressiveness, to imagine it, for a moment, a scene in some aboriginal forest of the New Continent. The flowers in an instant lost their light, the river its music; the hills became oppressively desolate; a heaviness in the boughs of the darkened forest showed how much of their former power had been dependent upon a life which was not theirs, how much of the glory of the imperishable, or continually renewed, creation is reflected from things more precious in their memories than it, in its renewing. Those ever-springing flowers and ever flowing streams had been dyed by the deep colors of human endurance, valor, and virtue; and the crests of the sable hills that rose against the evening sky received a deeper worship, because their far shadows fell eastward over the iron -wall of Joux and the four-square keep of Granson.

Here we have, first, impassioned love of beauty; and, secondly, love, also profound and impassioned, for mankind. If the spirit of beauty received only the second homage of his heart, which we just now found him expressly asserting, his was an intense and energetic vassalage for all that; and whenever the spirit of modern improvement, real or so-called, the spirit of modern invention, of industry, of material progress, blasted with the furnace-breath of its engines the fields, the hills, the woods, the secluded ruins, which were in his eyes sacred to the spirit of beauty, he cried out against it with the bitterness of a Hebrew prophet seeing the abomination of desolation carried into the holy place. Hence, to those who have not deeply and sympathetically, nay, to some extent indulgently, studied Mr. Ruskin's books, he may sometimes appear cynically indifferent to

[merged small][ocr errors]

huruan happiness, or, at least, incapable of sympathizing with it on a large scale when it is accompanied with any drawbacks offensive to a cultivated eesthetic faculty. The mere fact that many were made glad, irrespective of the quality of their enjoyment, even when it was innocent and healthful, has not been enough for him. He has had no reverence for those acclamations of gratified myriads which believers in the religion of humanity, from its highest form, as taught by the Divine Man, to its mutilated but, in some respects, genuine form as taught by Comte, must regard as having in them accents of the voice of God. The Great Exhibition of 1851 did not come up to his a;sthetic ideal, and the fact that it gave pleasure to hundreds of thousands did not procure for it favor in his eyes. He has always, and bitterly, sneered at the Crystal Palace, regardless of what I may be allowed to call the appealing smile of not very elevated but certainly genuine satisfaction on the faces of millions of men, women, boys, girls, and little children, whom it has made, for a few hours at least, extremely happy. He has inveighed with blistering scorn against the long lines of suburban London streets and "villas," inhabited by the lower middle classes of the metropolis, without its ever seeming to occur to him that in those not very bright or variegated abodes, with their little bits of gardens, thousands of honest fellows, Bob Cratchits and Tom Pmches, busy all day in city offices, snatch a little fresh air in the mornings and evenings, toss their babies, kiss their wives, and lead a perhaps not very refined, but honest, healthy, manly, enjoyable existence.

In all this I must frankly confess my disagreement with Mr. Buskin. I own to recognizing a kind of sacredness in human joy, even when it can give no account of itself that will pass muster with men of taste and culture. But what I want to call attention to is the fact that, for more than forty years, Mr. Ruskin has beheld what was, in his eyes, the choicest and most precious beauty destroyed by that outburst and advance of material prosperity with which are inseparably associated in his mind our Great Exhibitions, our Crystal Palaces, our increase of population, our enormous production of urban architecture. Nearly thirty years have passed since, in the second volume of Modern Painters, he complained that the iron roads were " tearing up the surface of Europe, as grape-shot do the sea," their great net "contracting all its various life, its rocky arms and rural heart, into a narrow, finite, caleulating metropolis of manufactures," and that there was "not a monument throughout the cities of Europe," speaking "of old years and mighty people," but was "being swept away to build cafes and gaminghouses." In a note he gave a long list of instances of destruction: inestimable relies of mediaeval architecture removed to make room for warehouses, ancient churches used as smithies, frescoes knocked to pieces by bricklayers, pictures by Giotto with beams of roofs thrust into them, canvases of Tintoret with the rain pouring through them. The sensation with which this kind of thing affected Ruskin can be described only by the word anguish, and it has been an anguish protracted through more than forty years. He could not recognize as happiness— or if as happiness, then only as the degrading happiness of the brutish person or the fool—that material prosperity and stolid satisfaction which he connected with the destructive agencies.

Nor was it only the works of man that were inundated and wrecked by the advancing wave of industrial energy; the loveliest nooks of God's earth were also desecrated. "Twenty years ago," he cries out, in the preface to The Crown of Wild Olive, published in 1866, "there was no lovelier piece of lowland scenery in South England, nor any more pathetic in the world, by its expression of sweet human character and life, than that immediately bordering on the sources of the Wandie, and including the lower moors of Addington, and the villages of Beddington and Carshalton, with all their pools and streams. . . . With deliberate mind I say that I have nevei

[merged small][ocr errors]

seen anything so ghastly in its inner tragic meaning—not in Pisan Maremma—not by Campagna tomb—not by the sand-isles of the Torccllan shore—as the slow stealing of aspects of reckless, indolent, animal neglect, over the delicate sweetness of that English scene: nor is any blasphemy or impiety—any frantic saying or godless thought—more appalling to me, using the best power of judgment I have to discern its sense and scope, than the insolent defiling of those springs by the human herds that drink of them." Three years later we have The Queen of the Air, and in the preface he renews his complaint. "This first of May, 1869,1 am writing where my work was begun thirty-five years ago, within sight of the snows of the higher Alps. In that half of the permitted life of man, I have seen strange evil brought upon every scene that I best loved, or tried to make beloved by others." The light of the "pale summits" had become "umbered and faint;" the air which once "inlaid the clefts of all their golden crags with azure" was "defiled with languid coils of smoke, belehed from worse than volcanic fires." The once crystalline waters were "dimmed and foul." "These," he says, "are no careless words—they are accurately, horribly true. . . . The light, the air, the waters, all defiled!"

It is not necessary that we should agree with Mr. Ruskin as to the extent to which railway lines have defaced the scenery of Europe and factory smoke blurred and blasted it, but it cannot be reasonably denied that his representations have a broad basis in fact; and if this be so, it is natural that he should feel it deeply. He is so organized that an offence to beauty affects

1 him as with a pang of literal pain, and it is equally certain that he never thinks of this pain as selfish, but attaches to it a moral quality, as if it were the sting of an aesthetic conscience—as if the duty were imposed upon him of protesting against the de

; struction of beauty as a sacrilege and a sin. His own countrymen, the foremost manufacturers and traders of the world, he

« 이전계속 »