As I’ve mentioned in the last two posts, I’m now reading Ruskin’s The Queen of the Air, three lectures he gave in 1869 on the importance of myths for framing our lives. His argument, one that probably virtually no one thinks about these days, is that all the essential truths about life and the universe are reflected, anticipated, and communicated in the greatest myths, particularly those of classical Greece (his Queen of the Air is the goddess Athena). The rest of the argument is too complex to rehearse, but, while reading this morning, I came across one of those wonderful Ruskin bits that so frequently fly up from a page to delight the reader. As we move toward February’s end, a moment when all our hearts start to anticipate the arrival of new life and warmth, it seemed worth sharing.
It appears near the end of the first lecture, “Athena in the Heavens.” He is making the case that, as the seasons turn (here, as winter slides into spring), new constellations appear in the heavens which simultaneously symbolize and influence this wonderful annual change. For one thing, every spring, in the east, the Pleiades, that fairly faint seven-star, tightly-grouped constellation, which we can only see these days if we are enjoying a night in the country, rise, occasioning all sorts of marvels to revive. Here are some of their lovely effects in the hills of northern Greece:
“The sweet influences of Pleiades”–the stars of spring–were nowhere sweeter than among the pine clad slopes of the hills of Sparta and Arcadia, when the snows of their higher summits, beneath the sunshine of April, fell into fountains and rose into clouds, and in every ravine was a newly-awakened voice of waters, soft increase of whisper among its sacred stones, and on every crag its forming and fading veil of radiant cloud, temple above temple, of the divine marble that no tool can pollute, nor ruin undermine.
Something very similar surely pends on hills near you and me!
Be well out there, in whatever version of a sweet day you are having.