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The Queen of the Air by John Ruskin

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to leave their homes. And then, lastly, as there is a strength and
healing in the earth, no less than the strength of air, so there is
conceived to be a wisdom of earth no less than a wisdom of the spirit;
and when its deadly power is killed, its guiding power becomes true; so
that the Python serpent is killed at Delphi, where yet the oracle is from
the breath of the earth.

71. You must remember, however, that in this, as in every other
instance, I take the myth at its central time. This is only the meaning
of the serpent to the Greek mind which could conceive an Athena. Its
first meaning to the nascent eyes of men, and its continued influence
over degraded races, are subjects of the most fearful mystery. Mr.
Fergusson has just collected the principal evidence bearing on the matter
in a work of very great value, and if you read his opening chapters, they
will put you in possession of the circumstances needing chiefly to be
considered. I cannot touch upon any of them here, except only to point
out that, though the doctrine of the so-called "corruption of human
nature," asserting that there is nothing but evil in humanity, is just
as blasphemous and false as a doctrine of the corruption of physical
nature would be, asserting there was nothing but evil in the earth,--
there is yet the clearest evidence of a disease, plague, or cretinous
imperfection of development, hitherto allowed to prevail against the
greater part of the races of men; and this in monstrous ways, more full
of mystery than the serpent-being itself. I have gathered for you
tonight only instances of what is beautiful in Greek religion; but even
in its best time there were deep corruptions in other phases of it, and
degraded forms of many of its deities, all originating in a misunderstood
worship of lower races, little less than these corrupted forms of
devotion can be found, all having a strange and dreadful consistency with
each other, and infecting Christianity, even at its strongest periods,
with fatal terror of doctrine, and ghastliness of symbolic conception,
passing through fear into frenzied grotesque, and thence into sensuality.

In the Psalter of St. Louis itself, half of its letters are twisted
snakes; there is scarcely a wreathed ornament, employed in Christian
dress, or architecture, which cannot be traced back to the serpent's
coil; and there is rarely a piece of monkish decorated writing in the
world that is not tainted with some ill-meant vileness of grotesque,--
nay, the very leaves of the twisted ivy-pattern of the fourteenth century
can be followed back to wreaths for the foreheads of bacchanalian gods.
And truly, it seems to me, as I gather in my mind the evidences of insane
religion, degraded art, merciless war, sullen toil, detestable pleasure,
and vain or vile hope, in which the nations of the world have lived since
first they could bear record of themselves--it seems to me, I say, as if
the race itself were still half-serpent, not extricated yet from its
clay; a lacertine breed of bitterness--the glory of it emaciate with
cruel hunger, and blotted on the leaf a glittering slime, and in the sand
a useless furrow.

72. There are no myths, therefore, by which the moral state and fineness
of intelligence of different races can be so deeply tried or measured, as
by those of the serpent and the bird; both of them having an especial
relation to the kind of remorse for sin, or for the grief in fate, of
which the national minds that spoke by them had been capable. The
serpent and vulture are alike emblems of immortality and purification
among races which desired to be immortal and pure; and as they recognize
their own misery, the serpent becomes to them the scourge of the Furies,
and the vulture finds its eternal prey in their breast. The bird long
contests among the Egyptians with the still received serpent symbol of
power. But the Draconian image of evil is established in the serpent
Apap; while the bird's wings, with the globe, become part of a better
symbol of deity, and the entire form of the vulture, as an emblem of
purification, is associated with the earliest conception of Athena. In
the type of the dove with the olive branch, the conception of the spirit
of Athena in renewed life prevailing over ruin is embodied for the whole
of futurity; while the Greeks, to whom, in a happier climate and higher
life than that of Egypt, the vulture symbol of cleansing became
unintelligible, took the eagle instead for their hieroglyph of supreme
spiritual energy, and it thenceforward retains its hold on the human
imagination, till it is established among Christian myths as the
expression of the most exalted form of evangelistic teaching. The
special relation of Athena to her favorite bird we will trace presently;
the peacock of Hera, and dove of Aphrodite, are comparatively unimportant
myths; but the bird power is soon made entirely human by the Greeks in
their flying angel of victory (partially human, with modified meaning of
evil, in the Harpy and Siren); and thenceforward it associates itself
with the Hebrew cherubim, and has had the most singular influence on the
Christian religion by giving its wings to render the conception of angels
mysterious and untenable, and check rational endeavor to determine the
nature of subordinate spiritual agency; while yet it has given to that
agency a vague poetical influence of the highest value in its own
imaginative way.

73. But with the early serpent-worship there was associated another,
that of the groves, of which you will also find the evidence exhaustively
collected in Mr. Fergussen's work. This tree-worship may have taken a
dark form when associated with the Draconian one; or opposed, as in
Judea, to a purer faith; but in itself, I believe, it was always healthy,
and though it retains little definite hieroglyphic power in subsequent
religion, it becomes, instead of symbolic, real; the flowers and trees
are themselves beheld and beloved with a half-worshipping delight, which
is always noble and healthful.

And it is among the most notable indications of the volition of the
animating power that we find the ethical signs of good and evil set on
these also, as well as upon animals; the venom of the serpent, and in
some respects its image also, being associated even with the passionless
growth of the leaf out of the ground; while the distinctions of species
seem appointed with more definite ethical address to the intelligence of
man as their material products become more useful to him.

74. I can easily show this, and, at the same time, make clear the
relation to other plants of the flowers which especially belong to
Athena, by examining the natural myths in the groups of the plants which
would be used at any country dinner, over which Athena would, in her
simplest household authority, cheerfully rule here in England. Suppose
Horace's favorite dish of beans, with the bacon; potatoes; some savory
stuffing of onions and herbs, with the meat; celery, and a radish or
two, with the cheese; nuts and apples for desert, and brown bread.

75. The beans are, from earliest time, the most important and
interesting of the seeds of the great tribe of plants from which came the
Latin and French name for all kitchen vegetables,--things that are
gathered with the hand--podded seeds that cannot be reaped, or beaten, or
shaken down, but must be gathered green. "Leguminous" plants, all of
them having flowers like butterflies, seeds in (frequently pendent) pods,
--"laetum siliqua quassante legumen"--smooth and tender leaves, divided
into many minor ones; strange adjuncts of tendril, for climbing (and
sometimes of thorn); exquisitely sweet, yet pure scents of blossom, and
almost always harmless, if not serviceable seeds. It is of all tribes
of plants the most definite, its blossoms being entirely limited in their
parts, and not passing into other forms. It is also the most usefully
extended in range and scale; familiar in the height of the forest--
acacia, laburnum, Judas-tree; familiar in the sown field--bean and vetch
and pea; familiar in the pasture--in every form of clustered clover and
sweet trefoil tracery; the most entirely serviceable and human of all
orders of plants.

76. Next, in the potato, we have the scarcely innocent underground stem
of one of a tribe set aside for evil; having the deadly nightshade for
its queen, and including the henbane, the witch's mandrake, and the worst
natural curse of modern civilization--tobacco.* And the strange thing
about this tribe is, that though thus set aside for evil, they are not a
group distinctly separate from those that are happier in function. There
is nothing in other tribes of plants like the form of the bean blossom;
but there is another family of forms and structure closely connected with
this venomous one. Examine the purple and yellow bloom of the common
hedge nightshade; you will find it constructed exactly like some of the
forms of the cyclamen; and, getting this clue, you will find at last the
whole poisonous and terrible group to be--sisters of the primulas!

* It is not easy to estimate the demoralizing effect on the youth of
Europe of the cigar, in enabling them to pass their time happily in

The nightshades are, in fact, primroses with a curse upon them; and a
sign set in their petals, by which the deadly and condemned flowers may
always be known from the innocent ones,--that the stamens of the
nightshades are between the lobes, and of the primulas, opposite the
lobes, of the corolla.

77. Next, side by side, in the celery and radish, you have the two great
groups of unbelled and cruciferous plants; alike in conditions of rank
among herbs: both flowering in clusters; but the unbelled group, flat,
the crucifers, in spires: both of them mean and poor in the blossom, and
losing what beauty they have by too close crowding; both of them having
the most curious influence on human character in the temperate zones of
the earth, from the days of the parsley crown, and hemlock drink, and
mocked Euripidean chervil, until now; but chiefly among the northern
nations, being especially plants that are of some humble beauty, and (the
crucifers) of endless use, when they are chosen and cultivated; but that
run to wild waste, and are the signs of neglected ground, in their rank
or ragged leaves and meagre stalks, and pursed or podded seed clusters.
Capable, even under cultivation, of no perfect beauty, thought reaching
some subdued delightfulness in the lady's smock and the wallflower; for
the most part they have every floral quality meanly, and in vain,--they
are white without purity; golden, without preciousness; redundant,
without richness; divided, without fineness; massive, without strength;
and slender, without grace. Yet think over that useful vulgarity of
theirs; and of the relations of German and English peasant character to
its food of kraut and cabbage (as of Arab character to its food of
palm-fruit), and you will begin to feel what purposes of the forming
spirit are in these distinctions of species.

78. Next we take the nuts and apples,--the nuts representing one of the
groups of catkined trees, whose blossoms are only tufts and dust; and the
other, the rose tribe, in which fruit and flower alike have been the
types to the highest races of men, of all passionate temptation, or pure
delight, from the coveting of Eve to the crowing of the Madonna, above

"Rosa sempiterna,
Che si dilata, rigrada, e ridole
Odor di lode al Sol."

We have no time now for these, we must go on to the humblest group of
all, yet the most wonderful, that of the grass which has given us our
bread; and from that we will go back to the herbs.

79. The vast family of plants which, under rain, make the earth green
for man, and, under sunshine, give him bread, and, in their springing in
the early year, mixed with their native flowers, have given us (far more
than the new leaves of trees) the thought and word of "spring," divide
themselves broadly into three great groups--the grasses, sedges, and
rushes. The grasses are essentially a clothing for healthy and pure
ground, watered by occasional rain, but in itself dry, and fit for all
cultivated pasture and corn. They are distinctively plants with round
and jointed stems, which have long green flexible leaves, and heads of
seed, independently emerging from them. The sedges are essentially the
clothing of waste and more or less poor or uncultivated soils, coarse in
their structure, frequently triangular in stem--hence called "acute" by
Virgil--and with their heads of seed not extricated from their leaves.
Now, in both the sedges and grasses, the blossom has a common structure,
though undeveloped in the sedges, but composed always of groups of double
husks, which have mostly a spinous process in the centre, sometimes
projecting into a long awn or beard; this central process being
characteristic also of the ordinary leaves of mosses, as if a moss were
a kind of ear of corn made permanently green on the ground, and with a
new and distinct fructification. But the rushes differ wholly from the
sedge and grass in their blossom structure. It is not a dual cluster,
but a twice threefold one, so far separate from the grasses, and so
closely connected with a higher order of plants, that I think you will
find it convenient to group the rushes at once with that higher order,
to which, if you will for the present let me give the general name of
Drosidae, or dew-plants, it will enable me to say what I have to say of
them much more shortly and clearly.

80. These Drosidae, then, are plants delighting in interrupted moisture--
or at certain seasons--into dry ground. They are not among water-plants,
but the signs of water resting among dry places. Many of the true
water-plants have triple blossoms, with a small triple calyx holding
them; in the Drosidae the floral spirit passes into the calyx also, and
the entire flower becomes a six-rayed star, bursting out of the stem
laterally, as if it were the first of flowers and had made its way to the
light by force through the unwilling green. They are often required to
retain moisture or nourishment for the future blossom through long times
of drought; and this they do in bulbs under ground, of which some become
a rude and simple, but most wholesome, food for man.

81. So, now, observe, you are to divide the whole family of the herbs of
the field into three great groups,--Drosidae, Carices,* Gramineae,--
dew-plants, sedges, and grasses. Then the Drosidae are divided into five
great orders: lilies, asphodels, amaryllids, irids, and rushes. No
tribes of flowers have had so great, so varied, or so healthy an
influence on man as this great group of Drosidae, depending, not so much
on the whiteness of some of their blossoms, or the radiance of others, as
on the strength and delicacy of the substance of their petals; enabling
them to take forms of faultless elastic curvature, either in cups, as the
crocus, or expanding bells, as the true lily, or heath-like bells, as the
hyacinth, or bright and perfect stars, like the star of Bethlehem, or,
when they are affected by the strange reflex of the serpent nature which
forms the labiate group of all flowers, closing into forms of exquisitely
fantastic symmetry in the gladiolus. Put by their side their Nereid
sisters, the water-lilies, and you have them in the origin of the
loveliest forms of ornamental design, and the most powerful floral myths
yet recognized among human spirits, born by the streams of Ganges, Nile,
Arno, and Avon.

* I think Carex will be found ultimately better than Cyperus for the
generic name, being the Vergilian word, and representing a larger

82. For consider a little what each of those five tribes* has been to
the spirit of man. First, in their nobleness, the lilies gave the lily
of the Annunciation; the asphodels, the flower of the Elysian fields; the
irids, the fleur-de-lys of chivalry; and the amaryllids, Christ's lily of
the field; while the rush, trodden always under foot, became the emblem
of humility. Then take each of the tribes, and consider the extent of
their lower influence. Perdita's "The crown imperial, lilies of all
kinds," are the first tribe, which, giving the type of perfect purity in
the Madonna's lily, have, by their lovely form, influenced the entire
decorative design of Italian sacred art; while ornament design of war was
continually enriched by the curves of the triple petals of the Florentine
"giglio," and French fleur-de-lys; so that it is impossible to count
their influence for good in the middle ages, partly as a symbol of
womanly character, and partly of the utmost brightness and refinement of
chivalry in the city which was the flower of cities.

* Take this rough distinction of the four tribes: lilies, superior ovary,
white seeds; asphodels, superior ovary, black seeds; irids, inferior
ovary, style (typically) rising into central crest; amaryllids, inferior
ovary, stamens (typically) joined in central cup. Then the rushes are a
dark group, through which they stoop to the grasses.

Afterwards, the group of the turban-lilies, or tulips, did some mischief
(their splendid stains having made them the favorite caprice of
florists); but they may be pardoned all such guilt for the pleasure they
have given in cottage gardens, and are yet to give, when lowly life may
again be possible among us; and the crimson bars of the tulips in their
trim beds, with their likeness in crimson bars of morning above them, and
its dew glittering heavy, globed in their glossy cups, may be loved
better than the gray nettles of the ash heap, under gray sky, unveined by
vermilion or by gold.

83. The next great group, of the asphodels, divides itself also into two
principal families: one, in which the flowers are like stars, and
clustered characteristically in balls, though opening sometimes into
looser heads; and the other, in which the flowers are in long bells,
opening suddenly at the lips, and clustered in spires on a long stem, or
drooping from it, when bent by their weight.

The star-group, of the squills, garlics, and onions, has always caused me
great wonder. I cannot understand why its beauty, and serviceableness,
should have been associated with the rank scent which has been really
among the most powerful means of degrading peasant life, and separating
it from that of the higher classes.

The belled group, of the hyacinth and convallaria, is as delicate as the
other is coarse; the unspeakable azure light along the ground of the wood
hyacinth in English spring; the grape hyacinth, which is in south France,
as if a cluster of grapes and a hive of honey had been distilled and
compressed together into one small boss of celled and beaded blue; the
lilies of the valley everywhere, in each sweet and wild recess of rocky
lands,--count the influences of these on childish and innocent life; then
measure the mythic power of the hyacinth and asphodel as connected with
Greek thoughts of immortality; finally take their useful and nourishing
power in ancient and modern peasant life, and it will be strange if you
do not feel what fixed relation exists between the agency of the creating
spirit in these, and in us who live by them.

84. It is impossible to bring into any tenable compass for our present
purpose, even hints of the human influence of the two remaining orders of
Amaryllids and Irids; only note this generally, that while these in
northern countries share with the Primulas the fields of spring, it seems
that in Greece, the primulaceae are not an extended tribe, while the
crocus, narcissus, and Amaryllis lutea, the "lily of the field" (I
suspect also that the flower whose name we translate "violet" was in
truth an iris) represented to the Greek the first coming of the breath of
life on the renewed herbage; and became in his thoughts the true
embroidery of the saffron robe of Athena. Later in the year, the
dianthus (which, though belonging to an entirely different race of
plants, has yet a strange look of being made out of the grasses by
turning the sheath-membrane at the root of their leaves into a flower)
seems to scatter, in multitudinous families, its crimson stars far and
wide. But the golden lily and crocus, together with the asphodel, retain
always the old Greek's fondest thoughts,--they are only "golden" flowers
that are to burn on the trees, and float on the streams of paradise.

85. I have but one tribe of plants more to note at our country feast--
the savory herbs; but must go a little out of my way to come at them
rightly. All flowers whose petals are fastened together, and most of
those whose petals are loose, are best thought of first as a kind of cup
or tube opening at the mouth. Sometimes the opening is gradual, as in
the convolvulus or campanula; oftener there is a distinct change of
direction between the tube and expanding lip, as in the primrose; or even
a contraction under the lip, making the tube into a narrow-necked phial
or vase, as in the heaths; but the general idea of a tube expanding into
a quatrefoil, cinquefoil, or sixfoil, will embrace most of the forms.

86. Now, it is easy to conceive that flowers of this kind, growing in
close clusters, may, in process of time, have extended their outside
petals rather than the interior ones (as the outer flowers of the
clusters of many umbellifers actually do), and thus elongated and
variously distorted forms have established themselves; then if the stalk
is attached to the side instead of the base of the tube, its base becomes
a spur, and thus all the grotesque forms of the mints, violets, and
larkspurs, gradually might be composed. But, however this may be, there
is one great tribe of plants separate from the rest, and of which the
influence seems shed upon the rest, in different degrees; and these would
give the impression, not so much of having been developed by change, as
of being stamped with a character of their own, more or less serpentine
or dragon-like. And I think you will find it convenient to call these
generally Draconidae; disregarding their present ugly botanical name which
I do not care even to write once--you may take for their principal types
the foxglove, snapdragon, and calceolaria; and you will find they all
agree in a tendency to decorate themselves by spots, and with bosses or
swollen places in their leaves, as if they had been touched by poison.
The spot of the foxglove is especially strange, because it draws the
color out of the tissue all around it, as if it had been stung, and as if
the central color was really an inflamed spot, with paleness round. Then
also they carry to its extreme the decoration by bulging or pouting out
the petal,--often beautifully used by other flowers in a minor degree,
like the beating out of bosses in hollow silver, as in the kalmia, beaten
out apparently in each petal by the stamens instead of a hammer; or the
borage, pouting towards; but the snapdragons and calceolarias carry it to
its extreme.

87. Then the spirit of these Draconidae seems to pass more or less into
other flowers, whose forms are properly pure vases; but it affects some
of them slightly, others not at all. It never strongly affects the
heaths; never once the roses; but it enters like an evil spirit into the
buttercup, and turns it into a larkspur, with a black, spotted, grotesque
centre, and a strange, broken blue, gorgeous and intense, yet impure,
glittering on the surface as if it were strewn with broken glass, and
stained or darkening irregularly into red. And then at last the serpent
charm changes the ranunculus into monkshood, and makes it poisonous. It
enters into the forget-me-not, and the star of heavenly turquoise is
corrupted into the viper's bugloss, darkened with the same strange red as
the larkspur, and fretted into a fringe of thorn; it enters, together
with a strange insect-spirit, into the asphodels, and (though with a
greater interval between the groups) they change to spotted orchideae; it
touches the poppy, it becomes a fumaria; the iris, and it pouts into a
gladiolus; the lily, and it chequers itself into a snake's-head, and
secretes in the deep of its bell, drops, not of venom indeed, but
honey-dew, as if it were a healing serpent. For there is an AEsculapian
as well as an evil serpentry among the Draconidae, and the fairest of
them, the "erba della Madonna" of Venice (Linaria Cymbalaria), descends
from the ruins it delights into the herbage at their feet, and touches
it; and behold, instantly, a vast group of herbs for healing,--all
draconid in form,--spotted and crested, and from their lip-like corollas
named "labiatae;" full of various balm, and warm strength for healing, yet
all of them without splendid honor or perfect beauty, "ground ives,"
richest when crushed under the foot; the best sweetness and gentle
brightness of the robes of the field,--thyme, and marjoram, and Euphrasy.

88. And observe, again and again, with respect to all these divisions
and powers of plants: it does not matter in the least by what
concurrences of circumstance or necessity they may gradually have been
developed; the concurrence of circumstance is itself the supreme and
inexplicable fact. We always come at last to a formative cause, which
directs the circumstance, and mode of meeting it. If you ask an ordinary
botanist the reason of the form of the leaf, he will tell you that it is
a "developed tubercle," and that its ultimate form "is owing to the
directions of its vascular threads." But what directs its vascular
threads? "They are seeking for something they want," he will probably
answer. What made them want that? What made them seek for it thus?
Seek for it, in five fibres or in three? Seek for it, in serration, or
in sweeping curves? Seek for it, in servile tendrils, or impetuous
spray? Seek for it, in woolen wrinkles rough with stings, or in glossy
surfaces, green with pure strength, and winterless delight?

89. There is no answer. But the sum of all is, that over the entire
surface of the earth, and its waters, as influenced by the power of the
air under solar light, there is developed a series of changing forms, in
clouds, plants, and animals, all of which have reference in their action,
or nature, to the human intelligence that perceives them; and on which,
in their aspects of horror and beauty, and their qualities of good and
evil, there is engraved a series of myths, or words of the forming power,
which, according to the true passion and energy of the human race, they
have been enabled to read into religion. And this forming power has been
by all nations partly confused with the breath or air through which it
acts, and partly understood as a creative wisdom, proceeding from the
Supreme Deity; but entering into and inspiring all intelligences that
work in harmony with Him. And whatever intellectual results may be in
modern days obtained by regarding this effluence only as a motion of
vibration, every formative human art hitherto, and the best states of
human happiness and order, may have depended on the apprehension of its
mystery (which is certain,) and of its personality, which is probable.

90. Of its influence on the formative arts, I have a few words to say
separately: my present business is only to interpret, as we are now
sufficiently enabled to do, the external symbols of the myth under which
it was represented by the Greeks as a goddess of counsel, taken first
into that breast of their supreme Deity, then created out of his
thoughts, and abiding closely beside him; always sharing and consummating
his power.

91. And in doing this we have first to note the meaning of the principal
epithet applied to Athena, "Glaukopis," "with eyes full of light," the
first syllable being connected, by its root, with words signifying sight,
not with words signifying color. As far as I can trace the color
perception of the Greeks, I find it all founded primarily on the degree
of connection between color and light; the most important fact to them in
the color of red being its connection with fire and sunshine; so that
"purple" is, in its original sense, "fire-color," and the scarlet or
orange, of dawn, more than any other fire-color. I was long puzzled by
Homer's calling the sea purple; and misled into thinking he meant the
color of cloud shadows on green sea; whereas he really means the gleaming
blaze of the waves under wide light. Aristotle's idea (partly true) is
that light, subdued by blackness, becomes red; and blackness, heated or
lighted, also becomes red. Thus, a color may be called purple because it
is light subdued (and so death is called "purple" or "shadowy" death); or
else it may be called purple as being shade kindled with fire, and thus
said of the lighted sea; or even of the sun itself, when it is thought of
as a red luminary opposed to the whiteness of the moon: "purpureos inter
soles, et candida lunae sidera;" or of golden hair: "pro purpureo poenam
solvens scelerata capillo;" while both ideas are modified by the
influence of an earlier form of the word, which has nothing to do with
fire at all, but only with mixing or staining; and then, to make the
whole group of thoughts inextricably complex, yet rich and subtle in
proportion to their intricacy, the various rose and crimson colors of the
murex dye,--the crimson and purple of the poppy, and fruit of the palm,--
and the association of all these with the hue of blood,--partly direct,
partly through a confusion between the word signifying "slaughter" and
"palm-fruit color," mingle themselves in, and renew the whole nature of
the old word; so that, in later literature, it means a different color,
or emotion of color, in almost every place where it occurs; and cast
forever around the reflection of all that has been dipped in its dyes.

92. So that the world is really a liquid prism, and stream of opal. And
then, last of all, to keep the whole history of it in the fantastic
course of a dream, warped here and there into wild grotesque, we moderns,
who have preferred to rule over coal-mines instead of the sea (and so
have turned the everlasting lamp of Athena into a Davy's safety-lamp in
the hand of Britannia, and Athenian heavenly lightning into British
subterranean "damp"), have actually got our purple out of coal instead of
the sea! And thus, grotesquely, we have had enforced on us the doubt
that held the old word between blackness and fire, and have completed the
shadow, and the fear of it, by giving it a name from battle, "Magenta."

93. There is precisely a similar confusion between light and color in
the word used for the blue of the eyes of Athena--a noble confusion,
however, brought about by the intensity of the Greek sense that the
heaven is light, more than it is blue. I was not thinking of this when I
wrote in speaking of pictorial chiaroscuro, "The sky is not blue color
merely: it is blue fire and cannot be painted" (Mod. P. iv. p. 36); but
it was this that the Greeks chiefly felt of it, and so "Glaukopis"
chiefly means gray-eyed: gray standing for a pale or luminous blue; but
it only means "owl-eyed" in thought of the roundness and expansion, not
from the color; this breath and brightness being, again, in their moral
sense typical of the breadth, intensity, and singleness of the sight in
prudence ("if thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of
light"). Then the actual power of the bird to see in twilight enters
into the type, and perhaps its general fineness of sense. "Before the
human form was adopted, her (Athena's) proper symbol was the owl, a bird
which seems to surpass all other creatures in acuteness of organic
perception, its eye being calculated to observe objects which to all
others are enveloped in darkness, its ear to hear sounds distinctly, and
its nostrils to discriminate effluvia with such nicety that it has been
deemed prophetic, from discovering the putridity of death even in the
first stages of disease."*

* Payne Knight in his "Inquiry into the Symbolical Language of Ancient
Art," not trustworthy, being little more than a mass of conjectural
memoranda, but the heap is suggestive, if well sifted.

I cannot find anywhere an account of the first known occurrence of the
type; but, in the early ones on Attic coins, the wide round eyes are
clearly the principal things to be made manifest.

94. There is yet, however, another color of great importance in the
conception of Athena--the dark blue of her aegis. Just as the blue or
gray of her eyes was conceived more as light than color, so her aegis was
dark blue, because the Greeks thought of this tint more as shade than
color, and, while they used various materials in ornamentation,
lapislazuli, carbonate of copper, or, perhaps, smalt, with real enjoyment
of the blue tint, it was yet in their minds as distinctly representative
of darkness as scarlet was of light, and, therefore, anything dark,* but
especially the color of heavy thunder-cloud, was described by the same
term. The physical power of this darkness of the aegis, fringed with
lightning, is given quite simply when Jupiter himself uses it to
overshadow Ida and the Plain of Troy, and withdraws it at the prayer of
Ajax for light; and again when he grants it to be worn for a time by
Apollo, who is hidden by its cloud when he strikes down Patroclus; but
its spiritual power is chiefly expressed by a word signifying deeper
shadow,--the gloom of Erebus, or of our evening, which, when spoken of
the aegis, signifies, not merely the indignation of Athena, but the entire
hiding or withdrawal of her help, and beyond even this, her deadliest of
all hostility,--the darkness by which she herself deceives and beguiles
to final ruin those to whom she is wholly adverse; this contradiction of
her own glory being the uttermost judgment upon human falsehood. Thus it
is she who provokes Pandarus to the treachery which purposed to fulfil
the rape of Helen by the murder of her husband in time of truce; and then
the Greek king, holding his wounded brother's hand, prophesies against
Troy the darkness of the aegis which shall be over all, and for ever.**

* In the breastplate and shield of Atrides the serpents and bosses are
all of this dark color, yet the serpents are said to be like rainbows;
but through all this splendor and opposition of hue, I feel distinctly
that the literal "splendor," with its relative shade, are prevalent in
the conception; and that there is always a tendency to look through the
hue to its cause. And in this feeling about color the Greeks are
separated from the eastern nations, and from the best designers of
Christian times. I cannot find that they take pleasure in color for its
own sake; it may be in something more than color, or better; but it is
not in the hue itself. When Homer describes cloud breaking from a
mountain summit, the crags become visible in light, not color; he feels
only their flashing out in bright edges and trenchant shadows; above, the
"infinite," "unspeakable" aether is torn open--but not the blue of it. He
has scarcely any abstract pleasure in blue, or green, or gold; but only
in their shade or flame.

I have yet to trace the causes of this (which will be a long task,
belonging to art questions, not to mythological ones); but it is, I
believe, much connected with the brooding of the shadow of death over
the Greeks without any clear hope of immortality. The restriction of
the color on their vases to dim red (or yellow) with black and white,
is greatly connected with their sepulchral use, and with all the
melancholy of Greek tragic thought; and in this gloom the failure of
color-perception is partly noble, partly base: noble, in its earnestness,
which raises the design of Greek vases as far above the designing of mere
colorist nations like the Chinese, as men's thoughts are above
children's; and yet it is partly base and earthly, and inherently
defective in one human faculty; and I believe it was one cause of the
perishing of their art so swiftly, for indeed there is no decline so
sudden, or down to such utter loss and ludicrous depravity, as the fall
of Greek design on its vases from the fifth to the third century B.C. On
the other hand, the pure colored-gift, when employed for pleasure only,
degrades in another direction; so that among the Indians, Chinese, and
Japanese, all intellectual progress in art has been for ages rendered
impossible by the prevalence of that faculty; and yet it is, as I have
said again and again, the spiritual power of art; and its true brightness
is the essential characteristic of all healthy schools.
** 'eremnen Aigida pasi'.--Il. iv. 166.

95. This, then, finally, was the perfect color-conception of Athena: the
flesh, snow-white (the hands, feet, and face of marble, even when the
statue was hewn roughly in wood); the eyes of keen pale blue, often in
statues represented by jewels; the long robe to the feet, crocus-colored;
and the aegis thrown over it of thunderous purple; the helmet golden (Il.
v. 744.), and I suppose its crest also, as that of Achilles.

If you think carefully of the meaning and character which is now enough
illustrated for you in each of these colors, and remember that the
crocus-color and the purple were both of them developments, in opposite
directions, of the great central idea of fire-color, or scarlet, you will
see that this form of the creative spirit of the earth is conceived as
robed in the blue, and purple, and scarlet, the white, and the gold,
which have been recognized for the sacred chords of colors, from the day
when the cloud descended on a Rock more mighty than Ida.

96. I have spoken throughout, hitherto, of the conception of Athena, as
it is traceable in the Greek mind; not as it was rendered by Greek art.
It is matter of extreme difficulty, requiring a sympathy at once
affectionate and cautious, and a knowledge reaching the earliest springs
of the religion of many lands, to discern through the imperfection, and,
alas! more dimly yet, through the triumphs of formative art, what kind
of thoughts they were that appointed for it the tasks of its childhood,
and watched by the awakening of its strength.

The religions passion is nearly always vividest when the art is weakest;
and the technical skill only reaches its deliberate splendor when the
ecstacy which gave it birth has passed away forever. It is as vain an
attempt to reason out the visionary power or guiding influence of Athena
in the Greek heart, from anything we now read, or possess, of the work of
Phidias, as it would be for the disciples of some new religion to infer
the spirit of Christianity from Titian's "Assumption." The effective
vitality of the religious conception can be traced only through the
efforts of trembling hands, and strange pleasures of untaught eyes; and
the beauty of the dream can no more be found in the first symbols by
which it is expressed, than a child's idea of fairy-land can be gathered
from its pencil scrawl, or a girl's love for her broken doll explained by
the defaced features. On the other hand, the Athena of Phidias was, in
very fact, not so much the deity, as the darling of the Athenian people.
Her magnificence represented their pride and fondness, more than their
piety; and the great artist, in lavishing upon her dignities which might
be ended abruptly by the pillage they provoked, resigned, apparently
without regret, the awe of her ancient memory; and (with only the
careless remonstrance of a workman too strong to be proud) even the
perfectness of his own art. Rejoicing in the protection of their
goddess, and in their own hour of glory, the people of Athena robed her,
at their will, with the preciousness of ivory and gems; forgot or denied
the darkness of the breastplate of judgment, and vainly bade its
unappeasable serpents relax their coils in gold.

97. It will take me many a day yet--if days, many or few, are given me--
to disentangle in anywise the proud and practised disguises of religious
creeds from the instinctive arts which, grotesquely and indecorously, yet
with sincerity, strove to embody them, or to relate. But I think the
reader, by help even of the imperfect indications already given to him,
will be able to follow, with a continually increasing security, the
vestiges of the Myth of Athena; and to reanimate its almost evanescent
shade, by connecting it with the now recognized facts of existent nature
which it, more or less dimly, reflected and foretold. I gather these
facts together in brief.

98. The deep of air that surrounds the earth enters into union with the
earth at its surface, and with its waters, so as to be the apparent cause
of their ascending into life. First, it warms them, and shades, at once,
staying the heat of the sun's rays in its own body, but warding their
force with its clouds. It warms and cools at once, with traffic of balm
and frost; so that the white wreaths are withdrawn from the field of the
Swiss peasant by the glow of Libyan rock. It gives its own strength to
the sea; forms and fills every cell of its foam; sustains the precipices,
and designs the valleys of its waves; gives the gleam to their moving
under the night, and the white fire to their plains under sunrise; lifts
their voices along the rocks, bears above them the spray of birds,
pencils through them the dimpling of unfooted sands. It gathers out of
them a portion in the hollow of its hand: dyes, with that, the hills into
dark blue, and their glaciers with dying rose; inlays with that, for
sapphire, the dome in which it has to set the cloud; shapes out of that
the heavenly flocks: divides them, numbers, cherishes, bears them on its
bosom, calls them to their journeys, waits by their rest; feeds from them
the brooks that cease not, and strews with them the dews that cease. It
spins and weaves their fleece into wild tapestry, rends it, and renews;
and flits and flames, and whispers, among the golden threads, thrilling
them with a plectrum of strange fire that traverses them to and fro, and
is enclosed in them like life.

It enters into the surface of the earth, subdues it, and falls together
with it into fruitful dust, from which can be moulded flesh; it joins
itself, in dew, to the substance of adamant, and becomes the green leaf
out of the dry ground; it enters into the separated shapes of the earth
it has tempered, commands the ebb and flow of the current of their life,
fills their limbs with its own lightness, measures their existence by its
indwelling pulse, moulds upon their lips the words by which one soul can
be known to another; is to them the hearing of the ear, and the beating
of the heart; and, passing away, leaves them to the peace that hears and
moves no more.

99. This was the Athena of the greatest people of the days of old. And
opposite to the temple of this Spirit of the breath, and life-blood, of
man and beast, stood, on the Mount of Justice, and near the chasm which
was haunted by the goddess-Avengers, an altar to a God unknown,--
proclaimed at last to them, as one who, indeed, gave to all men, life,
and breath, and all things; and rain from heaven, filling their hearts
with rain from heaven, filling their hearts with food and gladness; a God
who had made of one blood all nations of men who dwell on the face of all
the earth, and had determined the times of their fate, and the bounds of
their habitation.

100. We ourselves, fretted here in our narrow days, know less, perhaps,
in very deed, than they, what manner of spirit we are of, or what manner
of spirit we ignorantly worship. Have we, indeed, desired the Desire of
all nations? and will the Master whom we meant to seem, and the Messenger
in whom we thought we delighted, confirm, when He comes to His temple,--
or not find in its midst,--the tables heavy with gold for bread, and the
seats that are bought with the price of the dove? Or is our own land
also to be left by its angered Spirit,--left among those, where sunshine
vainly sweet, and passionate folly of storm, waste themselves in the
silent places of knowledge that has passed away, and of tongues that have

This only we may discern assuredly; this, every true light of science,
every mercifully-granted power, every wisely-restricted thought, teach us
more clearly day by day, that in the heavens above, and the earth
beneath, there is one continual and omnipotent presence of help, and of
peace, for all men who know that they live, and remember that they die.


(Athena in the Heart.)

* "Athena the worker, or having rule over work." The name was first give
to her by the Athenians.


101. I have now only a few words to say, bearing on what seems to me
present need, respecting the third function of Athena, conceived as the
directress of human passion, resolution, and labor.

Few words, for I am not yet prepared to give accurate distinction between
the intellectual rule of Athena and that of the Muses; but, broadly, the
Muses, with their king, preside over meditative, historical, and poetic
arts, whose end is the discovery of light or truth, and the creation of
beauty; but Athena rules over moral passion, and practically useful art.
She does not make men learned, but prudent and subtle; she does not teach
them to make their work beautiful, but to make it right.

In different places of my writings, and though many years of endeavor to
define the laws of art, I have insisted on this rightness in work, and on
its connection with virtue of character, in so many partial ways, that
the impression left on the reader's mind--if, indeed, it was ever
impressed at all--has been confused and uncertain. In beginning the
series of my corrected works, I wish this principle (in my own mind the
foundation of every other) to be made plain, if nothing else is; and will
try, therefore, to make it so, as far as, by any effort, I can put it
into unmistakable words. And, at first, here is a very simple statement
of it, given lately in a lecture on the Architecture of the Valley of the
Somme, which will be better read in this place than in its incidental
connection with my account of the porches of Abbeville.

102. I had used, in a preceding part of the lecture, the expression, "by
what faults" this Gothic architecture fell. We continually speak thus of
works of art. We talk of their faults and merits, as of virtues and
vices. What do we mean by talking of the faults of a picture, or the
merits of a piece of stone?

The faults of a work of art are the faults of its workman, and its
virtues his virtues.

Great art is the expression of the mind of a great man, and mean art,
that of the want of mind of a weak man. A foolish person builds
foolishly, and a wise one, sensibly; a virtuous one, beautifully; and a
vicious one, basely. If stone work is well put together, it means that a
thoughtful man planned it, and a careful man cut it, and an honest man
cemented it. If it has too much ornament, it means that its carver was
too greedy of pleasure; if too little, that he was rude, or insensitive,
or stupid, and the like. So that when once you have learned how to spell
these most precious of all legends,--pictures and buildings,--you may
read the characters of men, and of nations, in their art, as in a mirror;
nay, as in a microscope, and magnified a hundredfold; for the character
becomes passionate in the art, and intensifies itself in all its noblest
or meanest delights. Nay, not only as in a microscope, but as under a
scalpel, and in dissection; for a man may hide himself from you, or
misrepresent himself to you every other way; but he cannot in his work:
there, be sure, you have him to the inmost. All that he likes, all that
he sees,--all that he can do,--his imagination, his affections, his
perseverance, his impatience, his clumsiness, cleverness, everything is
there. If the work is a cobweb, you know it was made by a spider; if a
honey-comb, by a bee; a wormcast is thrown up by a worm, and a nest
wreathed by a bird; and a house built by a man, worthily, if he is
worthy, and ignobly if he is ignoble.

And always, from the least to the greatest, as the made thing is good or
bad, so is the maker of it.

103. You will use this faculty of judgment more or less, whether you
theoretically admit the principle or not. Take that floral gable;* you
don't suppose the man who built Stonehenge could have built that, or that
the man who built that, would have built Stonehenge? Do you think an old
Roman would have liked such a piece of filigree work? or that Michael
Angelo would have spent his time in twisting these stems of roses in and
out? Or, of modern handicraftsmen, do you think a burglar, or a brute,
or a pickpocket could have carved it? Could Bill Sykes have done it? or
the Dodger, dexterous with finger and tool? You will find in the end,
that no man could have done it but exactly the man who did it; and by
looking close at it, you may, if you know your letters, read precisely
the manner of man he was.

* The elaborate pendiment above the central porch at the west end of
Rouen Cathedral, pierced into a transparent web of tracery, and enriched
with a border of "twisted eglantine."

104. Now I must insist on this matter, for a grave reason. Of all facts
concerning art, this is the one most necessary to be known, that, while
manufacture is the work of hands only, art is the work of the whole
spirit of man; and as that spirit is, so is the deed of it; and by
whatever power of vice or virtue any art is produced, the same vice or
virtue it reproduces and teaches. That which is born of evil begets
evil; and that which is born of valor and honor, teaches valor and honor.
All art is either infection or education. It must be one or other of

105. This, I repeat, of all truths respecting art, is the one of which
understanding is the most precious, and denial the most deadly. And I
assert it the more, because it has of late been repeatedly, expressly,
and with contumely, denied, and that by high authority; and I hold it one
of the most sorrowful facts connected with the decline of the arts among
us, that English gentlemen, of high standing as scholars and artists,
should have been blinded into the acceptance, and betrayed into the
assertion of a fallacy which only authority such as theirs could have
rendered for an instant credible. For the contrary of it is written in
the history of all great nations; it is the one sentence always inscribed
on the steps of their thrones; the one concordant voice in which they
speak to us out of their dust.

All such nations first manifest themselves as a pure and beautiful animal
race, with intense energy and imagination. They live lives of hardship
by choice, and by grand instinct of manly discipline; they become fierce
and irresistible soldiers; the nation is always its own army, and their
king, or chief head of government, is always their first soldier.
Pharaoh, or David, or Leonidas, or Valerius, or Barbarossa, or Coeur de
Lion, or St. Louis, or Dandalo, or Frederick the Great,--Egyptian, Jew,
Greek, Roman, German, English, French, Venetian,--that is inviolable law
for them all; their king must be their first soldier, or they cannot be
in progressive power. Then, after their great military period, comes the
domestic period; in which, without betraying the discipline of war, they
add to their great soldiership the delights and possessions of a delicate
and tender home-life; and then, for all nations, is the time of their
perfect art, which is the fruit, the evidence, the reward of their
national idea of character, developed by the finished care of the
occupations of peace. That is the history of all true art that ever was,
or can be; palpably the history of it,--unmistakably,--written on the
forehead of it in letters of light,--in tongues of fire, by which the
seal of virtue is branded as deep as ever iron burnt into a convict's
flesh the seal of crime. But always, hitherto, after the great period,
has followed the day of luxury, and pursuit of the arts for pleasure
only. And all has so ended.

106. Thus far of Abbeville building. Now I have here asserted two
things,--first, the foundation of art in moral character; next, the
foundation of moral character in war. I must make both these assertions
clearer, and prove them.

First, of the foundation of art in moral character. Of course art-gift
and amiability of disposition are two different things; for a good man
is not necessarily a painter, nor does an eye for color necessarily imply
an honest mind. But great art implies the union of both powers; it is
the expression, by an art-gift, of a pure soul. If the gift is not
there, we can have no art at all; and if the soul--and a right soul too--
is not there, the art is bad, however dexterous.

107. But also, remember, that the art-gift itself is only the result of
the moral character of generations. A bad woman may have a sweet voice;
but that sweetness of voice comes of the past morality of her race. That
she can sing with it at all, she owes to the determination of laws of
music by the morality of the past. Every act, every impulse, of virtue
and vice, affects in any creature, face, voice, nervous power, and vigor
and harmony of invention, at once. Perseverance in rightness of human
conduct renders, after a certain number of generations, human art
possible; every sin that clouds it, be it ever so little a one; and
persistent vicious living and following of pleasure render, after a
certain number of generations, all art impossible. Men are deceived by
the long-suffering of the laws of nature, and mistake, in a nation, the
reward of the virtue of its sires, for the issue of its own sins. The
time of their visitation will come, and that inevitably; for, it is
always true, that if the fathers have eaten sour grapes, the children's
teeth are set on edge. And for the individual, as soon as you have
learned to read, you may, as I said, know him to the heart's core,
through his art. Let his art-gift be never so great, and cultivated to
the height by the schools of a great race of men, and it is still but a
tapestry thrown over his own being and inner soul; and the bearing of it
will show, infallibly, whether it hangs on a man or on a skeleton. If
you are dim-eyed, you may not see the difference in the fall of the folds
at first, but learn how to look, and the folds themselves will become
transparent, and you shall see through them the death's shape, or the
divine one, making the tissue above it as a cloud of right, or as a

108. Then further, observe, I have said (and you will find it true, and
that to the uttermost) that, as all lovely art is rooted in virtue, so it
bares fruit of virtue, and is didactic in its own nature. It is often
didactic also in actually expressed thought, as Giotto's, Michael
Angelo's, Duerer's, and hundreds more; but that is not its special
function; it is didactic chiefly by being beautiful; but beautiful with
haunting thought, no less than with form, and full of myths that can be
read only with the heart.

For instance, at this moment there is open beside me as I write, a page
of Persian manuscript, wrought with wreathed azure and gold, and soft
green, and violet, and ruby and scarlet, into one field of pure
resplendence. It is wrought to delight the eyes only; and does delight
them; and the man who did it assuredly had eyes in his head; but not much
more. It is not didactic art, but its author was happy; and it will do
the good, and the harm, that mere pleasure can do. But, opposite me, is
an early Turner drawing of the lake of Geneva, taken about two miles from
Geneva, on the Lausanne road, with Mont Blanc in the distance. The old
city is seen lying beyond the waveless waters, veiled with a sweet misty
veil of Athena's weaving; a faint light of morning, peaceful exceedingly,
and almost colorless, shed from behind the Voirons, increases into soft
amber along the slope of the Saleve, and is just seen, and no more, on
the fair warm fields of its summit, between the folds of a white cloud
that rests upon the grass, but rises, high and tower-like, into the
zenith of dawn above.

109. There is not as much color in that low amber light upon the
hillside as there is in the palest dead leaf. The lake is not blue, but
gray in mist, passing into deep shadow beneath the Voirons' pines; a few
dark clusters of leaves, a single white flower--scarcely seen--are all
the gladness given to the rocks of the shore. One of the ruby spots of
the eastern manuscript would give color enough for all the red that is in
Turner's entire drawing. For the mere pleasure of the eye, there is not
so much in all those lines of his, throughout the entire landscape, as in
half an inch square of the Persian's page. What made him take pleasure
in the low color that is only like the brown of a dead leaf? in the cold
gray of dawn--in the one white flower among the rocks--in these--and no
more than these?

110. He took pleasure in them because he had been bred among English
fields and hills; because the gentleness of a great race was in his
heart, and its powers of thought in his brain; because he knew the
stories of the Alps, and of the cities at their feet; because he had read
the Homeric legends of the clouds, and beheld the gods of dawn, and the
givers of dew to the fields; because he knew the faces of the crags, and
the imagery of the passionate mountains, as a man knows the face of his
friend; because he had in him the wonder and sorrow concerning life and
death, which are the inheritance of the Gothic soul from the days of its
first sea kings; and also the compassion and the joy that are woven into
the innermost fabric of every great imaginative spirit, born now in
countries that have lived by the Christian faith with any courage or
truth. And the picture contains also, for us, just this which its maker
had in him to give; and can convey it to us, just so far as we are of the
temper in which it must be received. It is didactic if we are worthy to
be taught, not otherwise. The pure heart, it will make more pure; the
thoughtful, more thoughtful. It has in it no words for the reckless or
the base.

111. As I myself look at it, there is no fault nor folly of my life--and
both have been many and great--that does not rise up against me, and take
away my joy, and shorten my power of possession of sight, of
understanding. And every past effort of my life, every gleam of
rightness or good in it, is with me now, to help me in my grasp of this
art, and its vision. So far as I can rejoice in, or interpret either, my
power is owing to what of right there is in me. I dare to say it, that,
because through all my life I have desired good, and not evil; because I
have been kind to many; have wished to be kind to all; have wilfully
injured none; and because I have loved much, and not selfishly;
therefore, the morning light is yet visible to me on those hills, and
you, who read, may trust my thought and word in such work as I have to do
for you; and you will be glad afterwards that you have trusted them.

112. Yet, remember,--I repeat it again and yet again,--that I may for
once, if possible, make this thing assuredly clear: the inherited
art-gift must be there, as well as the life in some poor measure, or
rescued fragment, right. This art-gift of mine could not have been won
by any work or by any conduct: it belongs to me by birthright, and came
by Athena's will, from the air of English country villages, and Scottish
hills. I will risk whatever charge of folly may come on me, for printing
one of my many childish rhymes, written on a frosty day in Glen Farg,
just north of Loch Leven. It bears date 1st January, 1828. I was born
on the 8th of February, 1819; and al that I ever could be, and all that I
cannot be, the weak little rhyme already shows.

"Papa, how pretty those icicles are,
That are seen so near,--that are seen so far;
--Those dropping waters that come from the rocks
And many a hole, like the haunt of a fox.
That silvery stream that runs babbling along,
Making a murmuring, dancing song.
Those trees that stand waving upon the rock's side,
And men, that, like specters, among them glide.
And waterfalls that are heard from far,
And come in sight when very near.
And the water-wheel that turns slowly round,
Grinding the corn that--requires to be ground,--

(Political Economy of the future!)

----And mountains at a distance seen,
And rivers winding through the plain,
And quarries with their craggy stones,
And the wind among them moans."

So foretelling Stones of Venice, and this essay on Athena.

Enough now concerning myself.

113. Of Turner's life, and of its good and evil, both great, but the
good immeasurably the greater, his work is in all things a perfect and
transparent evidence. His biography is simply, "He did this, nor will
ever another do its like again." Yet read what I have said of him, as
compared with the great Italians, in the passages taken from the "Cestus
of Aglaia," farther on, sec. 158, pp. 164, 165.

114. This, then, is the nature of the connection between morals and art.
Now, secondly, I have asserted the foundation of both these, at least
hitherto, in war. The reason of this too manifest fact is, that, until
now it has been impossible for any nation, except a warrior one, to fix
its mind wholly on its men, instead of their possessions. Every great
soldier nation thinks, necessarily, first of multiplying its bodies and
souls of men, in good temper and strict discipline. As long as this is
its political aim, it does not matter what it temporarily suffers, or
loses, either in numbers or in wealth; its morality and its arts (if it
have national art-gift) advance together; but so soon as it ceases to be
a warrior nation, it thinks of its possessions instead of its men; and
then the moral and poetic powers vanish together.

115. It is thus, however, absolutely necessary to the virtue of war that
it should be waged by personal strength, not by money or machinery. A
nation that fights with a mercenary force, or with torpedoes instead of
its own arms, is dying. Not but that there is more true courage in
modern than even in ancient war; but this is, first, because all the
remaining life of European nations is with a morbid intensity thrown into
their soldiers; and, secondly, because their present heroism is the
culmination of centuries of inbred and traditional valor, which Athena
taught them by forcing them to govern the foam of the sea-wave and of the
horse,--not the steam of kettles.

116. And further, note this, which is vital to us in the present crisis:
If war is to be made by money and machinery, the nation which is the
largest and most covetous multitude will win. You may be as scientific
as you choose; the mob that can pay more for sulphuric acid and gunpowder
will at last poison its bullets, throw acid in your faces, and make an
end of you; of itself, also, in good time, but of you first. And to the
English people the choice of its fate is very near now. It may
spasmodically defend its property with iron walls a fathom thick, a few
years longer--a very few. No walls will defend either it, or its
havings, against the multitude that is breeding and spreading faster than
the clouds, over the habitable earth. We shall be allowed to live by
small pedler's business, and iron-mongery--since we have chosen those for
our line of life--as long as we are found useful black servants to the
Americans, and are content to dig coals and sit in the cinders; and have
still coals to dig,--they once exhausted, or got cheaper elsewhere, we
shall be abolished. But if we think more wisely, while there is yet
time, and set our minds again on multiplying Englishmen, and not on
cheapening English wares, if we resolve to submit to wholesome laws of
labor and economy, and setting our political squabbles aside, try how
many strong creatures, friendly and faithful to each other, we can crowd
into every spot of English dominion, neither poison nor iron will prevail
against us; nor traffic, nor hatred; the noble nation will yet, by the
grace of heaven, rule over the ignoble, and force of heart hold its own
against fireballs.

117. But there is yet a further reason for the dependence of the arts
on war. The vice and injustice of the world are constantly springing
anew, and are only to be subdued by battle; the keepers of order and law
must always be soldiers. And now, going back to the myth of Athena, we
see that though she is first a warrior maid, she detests war for its own
sake; she arms Achilles and Ulysses in just quarrels, but she disarms
Ares. She contends, herself, continually against disorder and
convulsion, in the earth giants; she stands by Hercules' side in victory
over all monstrous evil; in justice only she judges and makes war. But
in this war of hers she is wholly implacable. She has little notion of
converting criminals. There is no faculty of mercy in her when she has
been resisted. Her word is only, "I will mock when your fear cometh."
Note the words that follow: "when your fear cometh as desolation, and
your destruction as a whirlwind;" for her wrath is of irresistible
tempest: once roused, it is blind and deaf,--rabies--madness of anger--
darkness of the Dies Irae.

And that is, indeed, the sorrowfullest fact we have to know about our own
several lives. Wisdom never forgives. Whatever resistance we have
offered to her loaw, she avenges forever; the lost hour can never be
redeemed, and the accomplished wrong never atoned for. The best that can
be done afterwards, but for that, had been better; the falsest of all the
cries of peace, where there is no peace, is that of the pardon of sin, as
the mob expect it. Wisdom can "put away" sin, but she cannot pardon it;
and she is apt, in her haste, to put away the sinner as well, when the
black aegis is on her breast.

118. And this is also a fact we have to know about our national life,
that it is ended as soon as it has lost the power of noble Anger. When
it paints over, and apologizes for its pitiful criminalities; and endures
its false weights, and its adulterated food; dares not to decide
practically between good and evil, and can neither honor the one, nor
smite the other, but sneers at the good, as if it were hidden evil, and
consoles the evil with pious sympathy, and conserves it in the sugar of
its leaden heart,--the end is come.

119. The first sign, then, of Athena's presence with any people is that
they become warriors, and that the chief thought of every man of them is
to stand rightly in his rank, and not fail from his brother's side in
battle. Wealth, and pleasure, and even love, are all, under Athena's
orders, sacrificed to this duty of standing fast in the rank of war.

But further: Athena presides over industry, as well as battle; typically,
over women's industry; that brings comfort with pleasantness. Her word
to us all is: "Be well exercised, and rightly clothed. Clothed, and in
your right minds; not insane and in rags, nor in soiled fine clothes
clutched from each other's shoulders. Fight and weave. Then I myself
will answer for the course of the lance, and the colors of the loom."

And now I will ask the reader to look with some care through these
following passages respecting modern multitudes and their occupations,
written long ago, but left in fragmentary form, in which they must now
stay, and be of what use they can.

120. It is not political economy to put a number of strong men down on
an acre of ground, with no lodging, and nothing to eat. Nor is it
political economy to build a city on good ground, and fill it with store
of corn and treasure, and put a score of lepers to live in it. Political
economy creates together the means of life, and the living persons who
are to use them; and of both, the best and the most that it can, but
imperatively the best, not the most. A few good and healthy men, rather
than a multitude of diseased rogues; and a little real milk and wine
rather than much chalk and petroleum; but the gist of the whole business
is that the men and their property must both be produced together--not
one to the loss of the other. Property must not be created in lands
desolate by exile of their people, nor multiplied and depraved humanity,
in lands barren of bread.

121. Nevertheless, though the men and their possessions are to be
increased at the same time, the first object of thought is always to be
the multiplication of a worthy people. The strength of the nation is in
its multitude, not in its territory; but only in its sound multitude. It
is one thing, both in a man and a nation, to gain flesh, and another to
be swollen with putrid humors. Not that multitude ever ought to be
inconsistent with virtue. Two men should be wiser than one, and two
thousand than two; nor do I know another so gross fallacy in the records
of human stupidity as that excuse for neglect of crime by greatness of
cities. As if the first purpose of congregation were not to devise laws
and repress crimes! As if bees and wasps could live honestly in flocks--
men, only in separate dens! As if it were easy to help one another on
the opposite sides of a mountain, and impossible on the opposite sides of
a street! But when the men are true and good, and stand shoulder to
shoulder, the strength of any nation is in its quantity of life, not in
its land nor gold. The more good men a state has, in proportion to its
territory, the stronger the state. And as it has been the madness of
economists to seek for gold instead of life, so it has been the madness
of kings to seek for land instead of life. They want the town on the
other side of the river, and seek it at the spear point; it never enters
their stupid heads that to double the honest souls in the town on this
side of the river would make them stronger kings; and that this doubling
might be done by the ploughshare instead of the spear, and through
happiness instead of misery.

Therefore, in brief, this is the only object of all true policy and true
economy: "utmost multitude of good men on every given space of ground"--
imperatively always good, sound, honest men,--not a mob of white-faced
thieves. So that, on the one hand all aristocracy is wrong which is
inconsistent with numbers; and on the other all numbers are wrong which
are inconsistent with breeding.

122. Then, touching the accumulation of wealth for the maintenance of
such men, observe, that you must never use the terms "money" and "wealth"
as synonymous. Wealth consists of the good, and therefore useful, things
in the possession of the nation; money is only the written or coined sign
of the relative quantities of wealth in each person's possession. All
money is a divisible title-deed, of immense importance as an expression
of right to property, but absolutely valueless as property itself. Thus,
supposing a nation isolated from all others, the money in its possession
is, at its maximum value, worth all the property of the nation, and no
more, because no more can be got for it. And the money of all nations
is worth, at its maximum, the property of all nations, and no more, for
no more can be got for it. Thus, every article of property produced
increases, by its value, the value of all the money in the world, and
every article of property destroyed, diminishes the value of all the
money in the world. If ten men are cast away on a rock, with a thousand
pounds in their pockets, and there is on the rock, neither food nor
shelter, their money is worth simply nothing, for nothing is to be had
for it. If they built ten huts, and recover a cask of biscuit from the
wreck, then their thousand pounds, at its maximum value, is worth ten
huts and a cask of biscuit. If they make their thousand pounds into two
thousand by writing new notes, their two thousand pounds are still worth
ten huts and a cask of biscuit. And the law of relative value is the
same for all the world, and all the people in it, and all their property,
as for ten men on a rock. Therefore, money is truly and finally lost in
the degree in which its value is taken from it (ceasing in that degree to
be money at all); and it is truly gained in the degree in which value is
added to it. Thus, suppose the money coined by the nation be a fixed
sum, and divided very minutely (say into francs and cents), and neither
to be added to nor diminished. Then every grain of food and inch of
lodging added to its possessions makes every cent in its pockets worth
proportionally more, and every gain of food it consumes, and inch of roof
it allows to fall to ruin, makes every cent in its pockets worth less;
and this with mathematical precision. The immediate value of the money
at particular times and places depends, indeed, on the humors of the
possessors of property; but the nation is in the one case gradually
getting richer, and will feel the pressure of poverty steadily everywhere
relaxing, whatever the humors of individuals may be; and, in the other
case, is gradually growing poorer, and the pressure of its poverty will
every day tell more and more, in ways that it cannot explain, but will
most bitterly feel.

123. The actual quantity of money which it coins, in relation to its
real property, is therefore only of consequence for convenience of
exchange; but the proportion in which this quantity of money is divided
among individuals expresses their various rights to greater or less
proportions of the national property, and must not, therefore, be
tampered with. The government may at any time, with perfect justice,
double its issue of coinage, if it gives every man who has ten pounds in
his pocket another ten pounds, and every man who had ten pence another
ten pence; for it thus does not make any of them richer; it merely
divides their counters for them into twice the number. But if it gives
the newly-issued coins to other people, or keeps them itself, it simply
robs the former holders to precisely that extent. This most important
function of money, as a title-deed, on the non-violation of which all
national soundness of commerce and peace of life depend, has been never
rightly distinguished by economists from the quite unimportant function
of money as a means of exchange. You can exchange goods--at some
inconvenience, indeed, but you can still contrive to do it--without money
at all; but you cannot maintain your claim to the savings of your past
life without a document declaring the amount of them, which the nation
and its government will respect.

124. And as economists have lost sight of this great function of money
in relation to individual rights, so they have equally lost sight of its
function as a representative of good things. That, for every good thing
produced, so much money is put into everybody's pocket, is the one simple
and primal truth for the public to know, and for economists to teach.
How many of them have taught it? Some have; but only incidentally; and
others will say it is a truism. If it be, do the public know it? Does
your ordinary English householder know that every costly dinner he gives
has destroyed forever as much money as it is worth? Does every
well-educated girl--do even the women in high political position--know
that every fine dress they wear themselves, or cause to be worn, destroys
precisely so much of the national money as the labor and material of it
are worth? If this be a truism, it is one that needs proclaiming
somewhat louder.

125. That, then, is the relation of money and goods. So much goods, so
much money; so little goods, so little money. But, as there is this true
relation between money and "goods," or good things, so there is a false
relation between money and "bads," or bad things. Many bad things will
fetch a price in exchange; but they do not increase the wealth of the
country. Good wine is wealth, drugged wine is not; good meat is wealth,
putrid meat is not; good pictures are wealth, bad pictures are not. A
thing is worth precisely what it can do for you; not what you choose to
pay for it. You may pay a thousand pounds for a cracked pipkin, if you
please; but you do not by that transaction make the cracked pipkin worth
one that will hold water, nor that, nor any pipkin whatsoever, worth more
than it was before you paid such sum for it. You may, perhaps, induce
many potters to manufacture fissured pots, and many amateurs of clay to
buy them; but the nation is, through the whole business so encouraged,
rich by the addition to its wealth of so many potsherds,--and there an
end. The thing is worth what it CAN do for you, not what you think it
can; and most national luxuries, nowadays, are a form of potsherd,
provided for the solace of a self-complacent Job, voluntary sedent on his

126. And, also, so far as good things already exist, and have become
media of exchange, the variations in their prices are absolutely
indifferent to the nation. Whether Mr. A. buys a Titian from Mr. B. for
twenty, or for two thousand, pounds, matters not sixpence to the national
revenue; that is to say, it matters in nowise to the revenue whether Mr.
A. has the picture, and Mr. B. the money, or Mr. B. the picture, and Mr.
A. the money. Which of them will spend the money most wisely, and which
of them will keep the picture most carefully, is, indeed, a matter of
some importance; but this cannot be known by the mere fact of exchange.

127. The wealth of a nation then, first, and its peace and well-being
besides, depend on the number of persons it can employ in making good and
useful things. I say its well-being also, for the character of men
depends more on their occupations than on any teaching we can give them,
or principles with which we can imbue them. The employment forms the
habits of body and mind, and these are the constitution of the man,--the
greater part of his moral or persistent nature, whatever effort, under
special excitement, he may make to change or overcome them. Employment
is the half, and the primal half, of education--it is the warp of it; and
the fineness or the endurance of all subsequently woven pattern depends
wholly on its straightness and strength. And, whatever difficulty there
may be in tracing through past history the remoter connections of event
and cause, one chain of sequence is always clear: the formation, namely,
of the character of nations by their employments, and the determination
of their final fate by their character. The moment, and the first
direction of decisive revolutions, often depend on accident; but their
persistent course, and their consequences, depend wholly on the nature of
the people. The passing of the Reform Bill by the late English
Parliament may have been more or less accidental; the results of the
measure now rest on the character of the English people, as it has been
developed by their recent interests, occupations, and habits of life.
Whether, as a body, they employ their new powers for good or evil will
depend, not on their facilities of knowledge, nor even on the general
intelligence they may possess, but on the number of persons among them
whom wholesome employments have rendered familiar with the duties, and
modest in their estimate of the promises, of life.

128. But especially in framing laws respecting the treatment or
employment of improvident and more or less vicious persons, it is to be
remembered that as men are not made heroes by the performance of an act
of heroism, but must be brave before they can perform it, so they are not
made villains by the commission of a crime, but were villains before they
committed it; and the right of public interference with their conduct
begins when they begin to corrupt themselves,--not merely at the moment
when they have proved themselves hopelessly corrupt.

All measures of reformation are effective in exact proportion to their
timeliness: partial decay may be cut away and cleansed; incipient error
corrected; but there is a point at which corruption can be no more
stayed, nor wandering recalled. It has been the manner of modern
philanthropy to remain passive until that precise period, and to leave
the sick to perish, and the foolish to stray, while it spends itself in
frantic exertions to raise the dead, and reform the dust.

The recent direction of a great weight of public opinion against capital
punishment is, I trust, the sign of an awakening perception that
punishment is the last and worst instrument in the hands of the
legislator for the prevention of crime. The true instruments of
reformation are employment and reward; not punishment. Aid the willing,
honour the virtuous, and compel the idle into occupation, and there will
be no deed for the compelling of any into the great and last indolence of

129. The beginning of all true reformation among the criminal classes
depends on the establishment of institutions for their active employment,
while their criminality is still unripe, and their feelings of
self-respect, capacities of affection, and sense of justice, not
altogether quenched. That those who are desirous of employment should
always be able to find it, will hardly, at the present day, be disputed;
but that those who are undesirous of employment should of all persons be
the most strictly compelled to it, the public are hardly yet convinced;
and they must be convinced. If the danger of the principal thoroughfares
in their capital city, and the multiplication of crimes more ghastly than
ever yet disgraced a nominal civilization, are not enough, they will not
have to wait long before they receive sterner lessons. For our neglect
of the lower orders has reached a point at which it begins to bear its
necessary fruit, and every day makes the fields, not whiter, but more
stable, to harvest.

130. The general principles by which employment should be regulated may
be briefly stated as follows:

I. There being three great classes of mechanical powers at our
disposal, namely, (a) vital or muscular power; (b) natural mechanical
power of wind, water, and electricity; and (c) artificially produced
mechanical power; it is the first principle of economy to use all
available vital power first, then the inexpensive natural forces, and
only at last have recourse to artificial power. And this because it is
always better for a man to work with his own hands to feed and clothe
himself, than to stand idle while a machine works for him; and if he
cannot by all the labor healthily possible to him feed and clothe
himself, then it is better to use an inexpensive machine--as a windmill
or watermill--than a costly one like a steam-engine, so long as we have
natural force enough at our disposal. Whereas at present we continually
hear economists regret that the water-power of the cascades or streams of
a country should be lost, but hardly ever that the muscular power of its
idle inhabitants should be lost; and, again, we see vast districts, as
the south of Provence, where a strong wind* blows steadily all day long
for six days out of seven throughout the year, without a windmill, while
men are continually employed at a hundred miles to the north, in digging
fuel to obtain artificial power. But the principal point of all to be
kept in view is, that in every idle arm and shoulder throughout the
country there is a certain quantity of force, equivalent to the force of
so much fuel; and that it is mere insane waste to dig for coal for our
force, while the vital force is unused, and not only unused, but in being
so, corrupting and polluting itself. We waste our coal, and spoil our
humanity at one and the same instant. Therefore, wherever there is an
idle arm, always save coal with it, and the stores of England will last
all the longer. And precisely the same argument answers the common one
about "taking employment out of the hands of the industrious laborer."
Why, what is "employment" but the putting out of vital force instead of
mechanical force? We are continually in search of means to pull, to
hammer, to fetch, to carry. We waste our future resources to get this
strength, while we leave all the living fuel to burn itself out in mere
pestiferous breath, and production of its variously noisome forms of
ashes! Clearly, if we want fire for force, we want men for force first.
The industrious hands must already have so much to do that they can do
no more, or else we need not use machines to help them. Then use the
idle hands first. Instead of dragging petroleum with a steam-engine, put
it on a canal, and drag it with human arms and shoulders. Petroluem
cannot possibly be in a hurry to arrive anywhere. We can always order
that, and many other things, time enough before we want it. So, the
carriage of everything which does not spoil by keeping may most
wholesomely and safely be done by water-traction and sailing-vessels; and
no healthier work can men be put to, nor better discipline, than such
active porterage.

* In order fully to utilize this natural power, we only require machinery
to turn the variable into a constant velocity--no insurmountable

131. (2d.) In employing all the muscular power at our disposal we are to
make the employments we choose as educational as possible; for a
wholesome human employment is the first and best method of education,
mental as well as bodily. A man taught to plough, row, or steer well,
and a woman taught to cook properly, and make a dress neatly, are already
educated in many essential moral habits. Labor considered as a
discipline has hitherto been thought of only for criminals; but the real
and noblest function of labor is to prevent crime, and not to be
Reformatory, but Formatory.

132. The third great principle of employment is, that whenever there is
pressure of poverty to be met, all enforced occupation should be directed
to the production of useful articles only; that is to say, of food, of
simple clothing, of lodging, or of the means of conveying, distributing,
and preserving these. It is yet little understood by economists, and not
at all by the public, that the employment of persons in a useless
business cannot relieve ultimate distress. The money given to employ
riband-makers at Coventry is merely so much money withdrawn from what
would have employed lace-makers at Honiton; or makers of something else,
as useless, elsewhere. We must spend our money in some way, at some
time, and it cannot at any time be spent without employing somebody. If
we gamble it away, the person who wins it must spend it; if we lose it in
a railroad speculation, it has gone into some one else's pockets, or
merely gone to pay navies for making a useless embankment, instead of to
pay riband or button makers for making useless ribands or buttons; we
cannot lose it (unless by actually destroying it) without giving
employment of some kind; and, therefore, whatever quantity of money
exists, the relative quantity of employment must some day come out of it;
but the distress of the nation signifies that the employments given have
produced nothing that will support its existence. Men cannot live on
ribands, or buttons, or velvet, or by going quickly from place to place;
and every coin spent in useless ornament, or useless motion, is so much
withdrawn from the national means of life. One of the most beautiful
uses of railroads is to enable A to travel from the town of X to take
away the business of B in the town of Y; while, in the mean time, B
travels from the town of Y to take away A's business in the town of X.
But the national wealth is not increased by these operations. Whereas
every coin spent in cultivating ground, in repairing lodging, in making
necessary and good roads, in preventing danger by sea or land, and in
carriage of food or fuel where they are required, is so much absolute and
direct gain to the whole nation. To cultivate land round Coventry makes
living easier at Honiton, and every acre of sand gained from the sea in
Lincolnshire, makes life easier all over England.

4th, and lastly. Since for every idle person some one else must be
working somewhere to provide him with clothes and food, and doing,
therefore, double the quantity of work that would be enough for his own
needs, it is only a matter of pure justice to compel the idle person to
work for his maintenance himself. The conscription has been used in many
countries to take away laborers who supported their families, from their
useful work, and maintain them for purposes chiefly of military display
at the public expense. Since this has been long endured by the most
civilized nations, let it not be thought they would not much more gladly
endure a conscription which should seize only the vicious and idle,
already living by criminal procedures at the public expense; and which
should discipline and educate them to labor which would not only maintain
themselves, but be serviceable to the commonwealth. The question is
simply this: we must feed the drunkard, vagabond, and thief; but shall we
do so by letting them steal their food, and do no work for it? or shall
we give them their food in appointed quantity, and enforce their doing
work which shall be worth it, and which, in process of time, will redeem
their own characters and make them happy and serviceable members of

I find by me a violent little fragment of undelivered lecture, which puts
this, perhaps, still more clearly. Your idle people (it says), as they
are now, are not merely waste coal-beds. They are explosive coal-beds,
which you pay a high annual rent for. You are keeping all these idle
persons, remember, at far greater cost than if they were busy. Do you
think a vicious person eats less than an honest one? or that it is
cheaper to keep a bad man drunk, than a good man sober? There is, I
suppose, a dim idea in the mind of the public, that they don't pay for
the maintenance of people they don't employ. Those staggering rascals
at the street corner, grouped around its splendid angle of public-house,
we fancy that they are no servants of ours! that we pay them no wages!
that no cash out of our pockets is spent over that beer-stained counter!

Whose cash is it then they are spending? It is not got honestly by work.
You know that much. Where do they get it from? Who has paid for their
dinner and their pot? Those fellows can only live in one of two ways--by
pillage or beggary. Their annual income by thieving comes out of the
public pocket, you will admit. They are not cheaply fed, so far as they
are fed by theft. But the rest of their living--all that they don't
steal--they must beg. Not with success from you, you think. Wise, as
benevolent, you never gave a penny in "indiscriminate charity." Well,
I congratulate you on the freedom of your conscience from that sin, mine
being bitterly burdened with the memory of many a sixpence given to
beggars of whom I knew nothing but that they had pale faces and thin
waists. But it is not that kind of street beggary that is the worst
beggars' trade. Home alms which it is their worst degradation to
receive. Those scamps know well enough that you and your wisdom are
worth nothing to them. They won't beg of you. They will beg of their
sisters, and mothers, and wives, and children, and of any one else who is
enough ashamed of being of the same blood with them to pay to keep them
out of sight. Every one of those blackguards is the bane of a family.
That is the deadly "indiscriminate charity"--the charity which each
household pays to maintain its own private curse.

133. And you think that is no affair of yours? and that every family
ought to watch over and subdue its own living plague? Put it to
yourselves this way, then: suppose you knew every one of those families
kept an idol in an inner room--a big-bellied bronze figure, to which
daily sacrifice and oblation was made; at whose feet so much beer and
brandy was poured out every morning on the ground; and before which,
every night, good meat, enough for two men's keep, was set, and left,
till it was putrid, and then carried out and thrown on the dunghill; you
would put an end to that form of idolatry with your best diligence, I
suppose. You would understand then that the beer, and brandy, and meat,
were wasted; and that the burden imposed by each household on itself lay
heavily through them on the whole community? But, suppose further, that
this idol were not of silent and quiet bronze only, but an ingenious
mechanism, wound up every morning, to run itself down into automatic
blasphemies; that it struck and tore with its hands the people who set
food before it; that it was anointed with poisonous unguents, and
infected the air for miles round. You would interfere with the idolatry
then, straightway? Will you not interfere with it now, when the
infection that they venomous idol spreads is not merely death, but sin?

134. So far the old lecture. Returning to cool English, the end of the
matter is, that, sooner or later, we shall have to register our people;
and to know how they live; and to make sure, if they are capable of work,
that right work is given them to do.

The different classes of work for which bodies of men could be
consistently organized, might ultimately become numerous; these following
divisions of occupation may all at once be suggested:

I. Road-making.--Good roads to be made, wherever needed, and kept in
repair; and the annual loss on unfrequented roads, in spoiled horses,
strained wheels, and time, done away with.

II. Bringing in of waste land.--All waste lands not necessary for
public health, to be made accessible and gradually reclaimed; chiefly our
wide and waste seashores. Not our mountains nor moorland. Our life
depends on them, more than on the best arable we have.

III. Harbor-making.--The deficiencies of safe or convenient harborage
in our smaller ports to be remedied; other harbors built at dangerous
points of coast, and a disciplined body of men always kept in connection
with the pilot and life-boat services. There is room for every order of
intelligence in this work, and for a large body of superior officers.

IV. Porterage.--All heavy goods, not requiring speed in transit, to
be carried (under preventative duty on transit, by railroad) by
canal-boats, employing men for draught; and the merchant-shipping service
extended by sea; so that no ships may be wrecked for want of hands, while
there are idle ones in mischief on shore.

V. Repair of buildings.--A body of men in various trades to be kept
at the disposal of the authorities in every large town, for repair of
buildings, especially the houses of the poorer orders, who, if no such
provision were made, could not employ workmen on their own houses, but
would simply live with rent walls and roofs.

VI. Dressmaking.--Substantial dress, of standard material and kind,
strong shoes, and stout bedding, to be manufactured for the poor, so as
to render it unnecessary for them, unless by extremity of improvidence,
to wear cast clothes, or be without sufficiency of clothing.

VII. Works of Art.--Schools to be established on thoroughly sound
principles of manufacture, and use of materials, and with sample and, for
given periods, unalterable modes of work; first, in pottery, and
embracing gradually metal work, sculpture, and decorative painting; the
two points insisted upon, in distinction from ordinary commercial
establishments, being perfectness of material to the utmost attainable
degree; and the production of everything by hand-work, for the special
purpose of developing personal power and skill in the workman.

The last two departments, and some subordinate branches of others, would
include the service of women and children.

I give now, for such further illustrations as they contain of the points
I desire most to insist upon with respect both to education and
employment, a portion of the series of notes published some time ago in
the "Art Journal," on the opposition of Modesty and Liberty, and the
unescapable law of wise restraint. I am sorry that they are written
obscurely--and it may be thought affectedly; but the fact is, I have
always had three different ways of writing: one, with the single view of
making myself understood, in which I necessarily omit a great deal of
what comes into my head; another, in which I say what I think ought to be
said, in what I suppose to be the best words I can find for it (which is
in reality an affected style--be it good or bad); and my third way of
writing is to say all that comes into my head for my own pleasure, in the
first words that come, retouching them afterward into (approximate)
grammar. These notes for the "Art Journal" were so written; and I like
them myself, of course; but ask the reader's pardon for their

135. "Sir, it cannot be better done."

We will insist, with the reader's permission, on this comfortful saying
of Albert Duerer's in order to find out, if we may, what Modesty is; which
it will be well for painters, readers, and especially critics, to know,
before going farther. What it is; or, rather, who she is, her fingers
being among the deftest in laying the ground-threads of Aglaia's cestus.

For this same opinion of Albert's is entertained by many other people
respecting their own doings--a very prevalent opinion, indeed, I find it;
and the answer itself, though rarely made with the Nuremberger's crushing
decision, is nevertheless often enough intimated, with delicacy, by
artists of all countries, in their various dialects. Neither can it
always be held an entirely modest one, as it assuredly was in the man who
would sometimes estimate a piece of his unconquerable work at only the
worth of a plate of fruit, or a flask of wine--would have taken even one
"fig for it," kindly offered; or given it royally for nothing, to show
his hand to a fellow-king of his own, or any other craft--as Gainsborough
gave the "Boy at the Stile" for a solo on the violin. An entirely modest
saying, I repeat, in him--not always in us. For Modesty is "the
measuring virtue," the virtue of modes or limits. She is, indeed, said
to be only the third or youngest of the children of the cardinal virtue,
Temperance; and apt to be despised, being more given to arithmetic, and
other vulgar studies (Cinderella-like), than her elder sisters; but she
is useful in the household, and arrives at great results with her
yard-measure and slate-pencil--a pretty little Marchande des Modes,
cutting her dress always according to the silk (if this be the proper
feminine reading of "coat according to the cloth"), so that, consulting
with her carefully of a morning, men get to know not only their income,
but their in being--to know themselves, that is, in a gauger's manner,
round, and up and down--surface and contents; what is in them and what
may be got out of them; and in fine, their entire canon of weight and
capacity. That yard-measure of Modesty's, lent to those who will use it,
is a curious musical reed, and will go round and round waists that are
slender enough, with latent melody in every joint of it, the dark root
only being soundless, moist from the wave wherein

"Null' altra pianta che facesse fronda
O che 'n durasse, vi puote aver vita."*

* "Purgatorio," i. 108, 109.

But when the little sister herself takes it in hand, to measure things
outside of us with, the joints shoot out in an amazing manner: the
four-square walls even of celestial cities being measurable enough by
that reed; and the way pointed to them, though only to be followed, or
even seen, in the dim starlight shed down from worlds amidst which there
is no name of Measure any more, though the reality of it always. For,
indeed, to all true modesty the necessary business is not inlook, but
outlook, and especially uplook: it is only her sister Shamefacedness, who
is known by the drooping lashes--Modesty, quite otherwise, by her large
eyes full of wonder; for she never contemns herself, nor is ashamed of
herself, but forgets herself--at least until she has done something worth
memory. It is easy to peep and potter about one's own deficiencies in a
quiet immodest discontent; but Modesty is so pleased with other people's
doings, that she has no leisure to lament her own: and thus, knowing the
fresh feeling of contentment, unstained with thought of self, she does
not fear being pleased, when there is cause, with her own rightness, as
with another's, as with another's, saying calmly, "Be it mine or yours,
or whose else's it may, it is no matter; this also is well." But the
right to say such a thing depends on continual reverence and manifold
sense of failure. If you have known yourself to have failed, you may
trust, when it comes, the strange consciousness of success; if you have
faithfully loved the noble work of others, you need not fear to speak
with respect of things duly done, of your own.

136. But the principal good that comes of art being followed in this
reverent feeling is of it. Men who know their place can take it and
keep it, be it low or high, contentedly and firmly, neither yielding
nor grasping; and the harmony of hand and thought follows, rendering all
great deeds of art possible--deeds in which the souls of men meet like
the jewels in the windows of Aladdin's palace, the little gems and the
large all equally pure, needing no cement but the fitting of facets;
while the associative work of immodest men is all jointless, and astir
with wormy ambition; putridly dissolute, and forever on the crawl: so
that if it come together for a time, it can only be by metamorphosis
through a flash of volcanic fire out of the vale of Siddim, vitrifying
the clay of it, and fastening the slime, only to end in wilder
scattering; according to the fate of those oldest, mightiest, immodestest
of builders, of whom it is told in scorn, "They had brick for stone, and
slime had they for mortar."

137. The first function of Modesty, then, being this recognition of
place, her second is the recognition of law, and delight in it, for the
sake of law itself, whether her part be to assert it, or obey. For as it
belongs to all immodesty to defy or deny law, and assert privilege and
license, according to its own pleasure (it being therefore rightly called
"insolent," that is, "custom-breaking," violating some usual and
appointed order to attain for itself greater forwardness or power), so it
is the habit of all modesty to love the constancy and "solemnity," or,
literally, "accustomedness," of law, seeking first what are the solemn,
appointed, inviolable customs and general orders of nature, and of the
Master of nature, touching the matter in hand; and striving to put
itself, as habitually and inviolably, in compliance with them. Out of
which habit, once established, arises what is rightly called
"conscience," nor "science" merely, but "with-science," a science "with
us," such as only modest creatures can have--with or within them--and
within all creation besides, every member of it, strong or weak,
witnessing together, and joining in the happy consciousness that each
one's work is good; the bee also being profoundly of that opinion; and
the lark; and the swallow, in that noisy, but modestly upside-down, Babel
of hers, under the eaves, with its unvolcanic slime for mortar; and the
two ants who are asking of each other at the turn of that little
ant's-foot-worn bath through the moss "lor via e lor fortuna;" and the
builders also, who built yonder pile of cloud-marble in the west, and the
gilder who gilded it, and is gone down behind it.

138. But I think we shall better understand what we ought of the nature
of Modesty, and of her opposite, by taking a simple instance of both, in
the practice of that art of music which the wisest have agreed in
thinking the first element of education; only I must ask the reader's
patience with me through a parenthesis.

Among the foremost men whose power has had to assert itself, though with
conquest, yet with countless loss, through peculiarly English
disadvantages of circumstance, are assuredly to be ranked together, both
for honor, and for mourning, Thomas Bewick and George Cruikshank. There
is, however, less cause for regret in the instance of Bewick. We may
understand that it was well for us once to see what an entirely keen and
true man's temper, could achieve, together, unhelped, but also unharmed,
among the black bans and wolds of Tyne. But the genius of Cruikshank has
been cast away in an utterly ghastly and lamentable manner: his superb
line-work, worthy of any class of subject, and his powers of conception
and composition, of which I cannot venture to estimate the range in their
degraded application, having been condemned, by his fate, to be spent
either in rude jesting, or in vain war with conditions of vice too low
alike for record or rebuke, among the dregs of the British populace. Yet
perhaps I am wrong in regretting even this: it may be an appointed lesson
for futurity, that the art of the best English etcher in the nineteenth
century, spent on illustrations of the lives of burglars and drunkards,
should one day be seen in museums beneath Greek vases fretted with
drawings of the wars of Troy, or side by side with Duerer's "Knight and

139. Be that as it may, I am at present glad to be able to refer to one
of these perpetuations, by his strong hand, of such human character as
our faultless British constitution occasionally produces in
out-of-the-way corners. It is among his illustrations of the Irish
Rebellion, and represents the pillage and destruction of a gentleman's
house by the mob. They have made a heap in the drawing-room of the
furniture and books, to set first fire to; and are tearing up the floor
for its more easily kindled planks, the less busily-disposed meanwhile
hacking round in rage, with axes, and smashing what they can with
butt-ends of guns. I do not care to follow with words the ghastly truth
of the picture into its detail; but the most expressive incident of the
whole, and the one immediately to my purpose, is this, that one fellow
has sat himself at the piano, on which, hitting down fiercely with his
clenched fists, he plays, grinning, such tune as may be so producible, to
which melody two of his companions, flourishing knotted sticks, dance,
after their manner, on the top of the instrument.

140. I think we have in this conception as perfect an instance as we
require of the lowest supposable phase of immodest or licentious art in
music; the "inner consciousness of good" being dim, even in the musician
and his audience, and wholly unsympathized with, and unacknowledged by
the Delphian, Vestal, and all other prophetic and cosmic powers. This
represented scene came into my mind suddenly one evening, a few weeks
ago, in contrast with another which I was watching in its reality;
namely, a group of gentle school-girls, leaning over Mr. Charles Halle,
as he was playing a variation on "Home, Sweet Home." They had sustained
with unwonted courage the glance of subdued indignation with which,
having just closed a rippling melody of Sebastian Bach's (much like what
one might fancy the singing of nightingales would be if they fed on honey
instead of flies), he turned to the slight, popular air. But they had
their own associations with it, and besought for, and obtained it, and
pressed close, at first, in vain, to see what no glance could follow, the
traversing of the fingers. They soon thought no more of seeing. The wet
eyes, round-open, and the little scarlet upper lips, lifted, and drawn
slightly together, in passionate glow of utter wonder, became
picture-like, porcelain-like, in motionless joy, as the sweet multitude
of low notes fell, in their timely infinities, like summer rain. Only
La Robbia himself (nor even he, unless with tenderer use of color than is
usual in his work) could have rendered some image of that listening.

141. But if the reader can give due vitality in his fancy to these two
scenes, he will have in them representative types, clear enough for all
future purpose, of the several agencies of debased and perfect art. And
the interval may easily and continuously be filled by mediate gradations.
Between the entirely immodeset, unmeasured, and (in evil sense)
unmannered, execution with the fist; and the entirely modest, measured,
and (in the noblest sense) mannered, or moral'd execution with the
finger; between the impatient and unpractised doing, containing in itself
the witness of lasting impatience and idleness through all previous life,
and the patient and practised doing, containing in itself the witness
of self-restraint and unwearied toil through all previous life; between
the expressed subject and sentiment of home violation, and the expressed
subject and sentiment of home love; between the sympathy of audience,
given in irreverent and contemptuous rage, joyless as the rabidness of a
dog, and the sympathy of audience given in an almost appalled humility of
intense, rapturous, and yet entirely reasoning and reasonable pleasure;
between these two limits of octave, the reader will find he can class,
according to its modesty, usefulness and grace, or becomingness, all
other musical art. For although purity of purpose and fineness of
execution by no means go together, degree to degree (since fine, and
indeed all but the finest, work is often spent in the most wanton purpose
--as in all our modern opera--and the rudest execution is again often
joined with purest purpose, as in a mother's song to her child), still
the entire accomplishment of music is only in the union of both. For the
difference between that "all but" finest and "finest" is an infinite one;
and besides this, however the power of the performer, once attained, may
be afterwards misdirected, in slavery to popular passion or childishness,
and spend itself, at its sweetest, in idle melodies, cold and ephemeral
(like Michael Angelo's snow statue in the other art), or else in vicious
difficulty and miserable noise--crackling of thorns under the pot of
public sensuality--still, the attainment of this power, and the
maintenance of it, involve always in the executant some virtue or courage
of high kind; the understanding of which, and of the difference between
the discipline which develops it and the disorderly efforts of the
amateur, it will be one of our first businesses to estimate rightly. And
though not indeed by degree to degree, yet in essential relation (as of
winds to waves, the one being always the true cause of the other, though
they are not necessarily of equal force at the same time,) we shall find
vice in its varieties, with art-failure,--and virtue in its varieties,
with art-success,--fall and rise together; the peasant-girl's song at her
spinning-wheel, the peasant laborer's "to the oaks and rills,"--domestic
music, feebly yet sensitively skilful,--music for the multitude, of
beneficent or of traitorous power,--dance-melodies, pure and orderly, or
foul and frantic,--march-music, blatant in mere fever of animal
pugnacity, or majestic with force of national duty and memory,--
song-music, reckless, sensual, sickly, slovenly, forgetful even of the
foolish words it effaces with foolish noise,--or thoughtful, sacred,
healthful, artful, forever sanctifying noble thought with separately
distinguished loveliness of belonging sound,--all these families and
graduations of good or evil, however mingled, follow, in so far as they
are good, one constant law of virtue (or "life-strength," which is the
literal meaning of the word, and its intended one, in wise men's mouths),
and in so far as they are evil, are evil by outlawry and unvirtue, or
death-weakness. Then, passing wholly beyond the domain of death, we may
still imagine the ascendant nobleness of the art, through all the
concordant life of incorrupt creatures, and a continually deeper harmony
of "puissant words and murmurs made to bless," until we reach

"The undisturbed song of pure consent,
Aye sung before the sapphire-colored throne."

142. And so far as the sister arts can be conceived to have place or
office, their virtues are subject to a law absolutely the same as that of
music, only extending its authority into more various conditions, owing
to the introduction of a distinctly representative and historical power,
which acts under logical as well as mathematical restrictions, and is
capable of endlessly changeful fault, fallacy, and defeat, as well as of
endlessly manifold victory.

143. Next to Modesty, and her delight in measures, let us reflect a
little on the character of her adversary, the Goddess of Liberty, and her
delight in absence of measures, or in false ones. It is true that there
are liberties and liberties. Yonder torrent, crystal-clear, and
arrow-swift, with its spray leaping into the air like white troops of
fawns, is free enough. Lost, presently, amidst bankless, boundless marsh
--soaking in slow shallowness, as it will, hither and thither, listless
among the poisonous reeds and unresisting slime--it is free also. We may
choose which liberty we like,--the restraint of voiceful rock, or the
dumb and edgeless shore of darkened sand. Of that evil liberty which men
are now glorifying and proclaiming as essence of gospel to all the earth,
and will presently, I suppose, proclaim also to the stars, with
invitation to them out of their courses,--and of its opposite continence,
which is the clasp and 'chrusee perone' of Aglaia's cestus, we must try
to find out something true. For no quality of Art has been more powerful
in its influence on public mind; none is more frequently the subject of
popular praise, or the end of vulgar effort, than what we call "Freedom."
It is necessary to determine the justice or injustice of this popular

144. I said, a little while ago, that the practical teaching of the
masters of Art was summed by the O of Giotto. "You may judge my
masterhood of craft," Giotto tells us, "by seeing that I can draw a
circle unerringly." And we may safely believe him, understanding him to
mean that, though more may be necessary to an artist than such a power,
at least this power is necessary. The qualities of hand and eye needful
to do this are the first conditions of artistic craft.

145. Try to draw a circle yourself with the "free" hand, and with a
single line. You cannot do it if your hand trembles, nor if it is in the
common sense of the word "free." So far from being free, it must be as
if it were fastened to an inflexible bar of steel. And yet it must move,
under this necessary control, with perfect, untormented serenity of ease.

146. That is the condition of all good work whatsoever. All freedom is
error. Every line you lay down is either right or wrong; it may be
timidly and awkwardly wrong, or fearlessly and impudently wrong. The
aspect of the impudent wrongness is pleasurable to vulgar persons, and is
what they commonly call "free" execution; the timid, tottering,
hesitating wrongness is rarely so attractive; yet sometimes, if
accompanied with good qualities, and right aims in other directions, it
becomes in a manner charming, like the inarticulateness of a child; but,
whatever the charm or manner of the error, there is but one question
ultimately to be asked respecting every line you draw, Is it right or
wrong? If right, it most assuredly is not a "free" line, but an
intensely continent, restrained, and considered line; and the action of
the hand in laying it is just as decisive, and just as "free," as the
hand of a first-rate surgeon in a critical incision. A great operator
told me that his hand could check itself within about the two-hundredth
of an inch, in penetrating a membrane; and this, of course, without the
help of sight, by sensation only. With help of sight, and in action on a
substance which does not quiver or yield, a fine artist's line is
measurable in its proposed direction to considerably less than the
thousandth of an inch.

A wide freedom, truly!

147. The conditions of popular art which most foster the common ideas
about freedom, are merely results of irregularly energetic effort by men
imperfectly educated; these conditions being variously mingled with
cruder mannerisms resulting from timidity, or actual imperfection of
body. Northern hands and eyes are, of course, never so subtle as
Southern; and in very cold countries, artistic execution is palsied. The
effort to break through this timidity, or to refine the bluntness, may
lead to a licentious impetuosity, or an ostentatious minuteness. Every
man's manner has this kind of relation to some defect in his physical
powers or modes of thought; so that in the greatest work there is no
manner visible. It is at first uninteresting from its quietness; the
majesty of restrained power only dawns gradually upon us, as we walk
towards its horizon.

There is, indeed, often great delightfulness in the innocent manners of
artists who have real power and honesty, and draw in this way or that, as
best they can, under such and such untoward circumstances of life. But
the greater part of the looseness, flimsiness, or audacity of modern work
is the expression of an inner spirit of license in mind and heart,
connected, as I said, with the peculiar folly of this age, its hope of,
and trust in, "liberty," of which we must reason a little in more general

148. I believe we can nowhere find a better type of a perfectly free
creature than in the common house-fly. Nor free only, but brave; and
irreverent to a degree which I think no human republican could by any
philosophy exalt himself to. There is no courtesy in him; he does not
care whether it is king or clown whom he teases; and in every step of his
swift mechanical march, and in every pause of his resolute observation,
there is one and the same expression of perfect egotism, perfect
independence and self-confidence, and conviction of the world's having
been made for flies. Strike at him with your hand, and to him, the
mechanical fact and external aspect of the matter is, what to you it
would be if an acre of red clay, ten feet thick, tore itself up from the
ground in one massive field, hovered over you in the air for a second,
and came crashing down with an aim. That is the external aspect of it;
the inner aspect, to his fly's mind, is of a quite natural and
unimportant occurrence--one of the momentary conditions of his active
life. He steps out of the way of your hand, and alights on the back of
it. You cannot terrify him, nor govern him, nor persuade him, nor
convince him. He has his own positive opinion on all matters; not an
unwise one, usually, for his own ends; and will ask no advice of yours.
He has no work to do--no tyrannical instinct to obey. The earthworm has
his digging; the bee her gathering and building; the spider her cunning
network; the ant her treasury and accounts. All these are comparatively
slaves, or people of vulgar business. But your fly, free in the air,
free in the chamber--a black incarnation of caprice, wandering,
investigating, flitting, flirting, feasting at his will, with rich
variety of choice in feast, from the heaped sweets in the grocer's window
to those of the butcher's back-yard, and from the galled place on your
cab-horse's back, to the brown spot in the road, from which, as the hoof
disturbs him, he rises with angry republican buzz--what freedom is like

149. For captivity, again, perhaps your poor watch-dog is as sorrowful
a type as you will easily find. Mine certainly is. The day is lovely,
but I must write this, and cannot go out with him. He is chained in the
yard because I do not like dogs in rooms, and the gardener does not like
dogs in gardens. He has no books,--nothing but his own weary thoughts
for company, and a group of those free flies, whom he snaps at, with
sullen ill success. Such dim hope as he may have that I may take him out
with me, will be, hour by hour, wearily disappointed; or, worse, darkened
at once into a leaden despair by an authoritative "No"--too well
understood. His fidelity only seals his fate; if he would not watch for
me, he would be sent away, and go hunting with some happier master: but
he watches, and is wise, and faithful, and miserable; and his high animal
intellect only gives him the wistful powers of wonder, and sorrow, and
desire, and affection, which embitter his captivity. Yet of the two,
would we rather be watch-dog or fly?

150. Indeed, the first point we have all to determine is not how free
we are, but what kind of creatures we are. It is of small importance to
any of us whether we get liberty; but of the greatest that we deserve it.
Whether we can win it, fate must determine; but that we will be worthy of
it we may ourselves determine; and the sorrowfullest fate of all that we
can suffer is to have it without deserving it.

151. I have hardly patience to hold my pen and go on writing, as I
remember (I would that it were possible for a few consecutive instants to
forget) the infinite follies of modern thought in this matter, centred in
the notion that liberty is good for a man, irrespectively of the use he
is likely to make of it. Folly unfathomable! unspeakable! unendurable to
look in the full face of, as the laugh of a cretin. You will send your
child, will you, into a room where the table is loaded with sweet wine
and fruit--some poisoned, some not?--you will say to him, "Choose freely,
my little child! It is so good for you to have freedom of choice; it
forms your character--your individuality! If you take the wrong cup or
the wrong berry, you will die before the day is over, but you will have
acquired the dignity of a Free child?"

152. You think that puts the case too sharply? I tell you, lover of
liberty, there is no choice offered to you, but it is similarly between
life and death. There is no act, nor option of act, possible, but the
wrong deed or option has poison in it which will stay in your veins
thereafter forever. Never more to all eternity can you be as you might
have been had you not done that--chosen that. You have "formed your
character," forsooth! No; if you have chosen ill, you have De-formed
it, and that for ever! In some choices it had been better for you that
a red-hot iron bar struck you aside, scarred and helpless, than that you
had so chosen. "You will know better next time!" No. Next time will
never come. Next time the choice will be in quite another aspect--
between quite different things,--you, weaker than you were by the evil
into which you have fallen; it, more doubtful than it was, by the
increased dimness of your sight. No one ever gets wiser by doing wrong,
nor stronger. You will get wiser and stronger only by doing right,
whether forced or not; the prime, the one need is to do that, under
whatever compulsion, until you can do it without compulsion. And then
you are a Man.

153. "What!" a wayward youth might perhaps answer, incredulously, "no
one ever gets wiser by doing wrong? Shall I not know the world best by
trying the wrong of it, and repenting? Have I not, even as it is,
learned much by many of my errors?" Indeed, the effort by which
partially you recovered yourself was precious; that part of your thought
by which you discerned the error was precious. What wisdom and strength
you kept, and rightly used, are rewarded; and in the pain and the
repentance, and in the acquaintance with the aspects of folly and sin,
you have learned something; how much less than you would have learned in
right paths can never be told, but that it is less is certain. Your
liberty of choice has simply destroyed for you so much life and strength
never regainable. It is true, you now know the habits of swine, and the
taste of husks; do you think your father could not have taught you to
know better habits and pleasanter tastes, if you had stayed in his house;
and that the knowledge you have lost would not have been more, as well as
sweeter, than that you have gained? But "it so forms my individuality

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