While I was setting aside my folder of not-yet-shared Ruskin quotes the other day as I cobbled together our last post (#71), another piece of paper slipped out. The words on it didn’t exactly fit with those I was on the verge of sharing but they were so beautiful and apt, I determined that they should find their way to our small portion of cyberspace soon.
That’s the thing about reading Ruskin. In any kind of weather–in a bad political season (!), in the midst of deep grief or worry or frustration, wherever we are in our day or week or year–suddenly his words and sentences lift up, soften, salve, or center. It is in this inexhaustible richness that his genius resides, his matchless humanity, his singular–I can think of no other right word–goodness.
And so, in the second volume of The Stones of Venice (1853), while I was reading on 22 February 2012 (I’m not sure why I date these recordings, but I do!), I came across the following sentence and wrote it down:
And therefore, while in all things we see or do we are to desire perfection and strive for it, we are nevertheless not to set the meaner thing in its narrow accomplishment over the nobler thing in its mighty progress, nor to esteem smooth minuteness above shattered majesty, nor to prefer mean victory to honorable defeat, nor to lower the level of our aim that we may surely enjoy the complacency of our success.
Right then, I thought. Right still.