12 April 2008

John Ruskin

[from John Ruskin's The Stones of Venice, 1851]

Observe that the value of this type does not consist in the mere shutting of the ornament into a certain space, but in the acknowledgement by the ornament of the fitness of the limitation; — of its own perfect willingness to submit to it; nay, of a predisposition in itself to fall into the ordained form, without any direct expression of the command to do so; an anticipation of the authority, and an instant and willing submission to it, in every fibre and spray; not merely willing but happy submission, as being pleased rather than vexed to have so beautiful a law suggested to it, and one which to follow is so justly in accordance with its own nature. You must not cut out a branch of hawthorn as it grows, and rule a triangle round it, and suppose that it is then submitted to a law. Not a bit of it. It is only put in a cage, and will look as if it must get out, for its life, or wither in the confinement. But the spirit of triangle must be put in the hawthorn. It must suck in isoscelesism with its sap. Thorn and blossom, leaf and spray must grow with an awful sense of triangular necessity upon them, for the guidance of which they are to be thankful, and to grow all the stronger and more gloriously. And although there may be a transgression here and there, and an adaptation to some other need, or a reaching forth to some other end, greater even than triangle, yet this liberty is to be always accepted under the solemn sense of special permission, and when the full form is reached and the entire submission expressed and every blossom has a thrilling sense of its responsibility down to its tiniest stamen, you may take your terminal line away if you will. No need of it any more. The commandment is written in the heart of the thing.

The Stones of Venice

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