The queen of the air - by John Ruskin - PDF-ebook (1893)

The queen of the air

The queen of the air



being a study of the Greek myths of cloud and storm.

The study of Greek myths for the purpose of ascertaining their moral and spiritual significance, and their true relation to the religion of the Greeks, had been, for many years, a favourite pursuit of Mr Ruskin's. He approached the subject, as he himself says, " in a temper differing from that in which it is frequently treated."

 Dr Johnson, for instance, is reported by Boswell as declaring that, " had the ancients been serious in their belief, we should not have had their gods exhibited in the manner we find them represented in the poets." Mr Ruskin assumed alike the seriousness and the sincerity of their belief To deal with Greek religion honestly he rightly conceived that we must acknowledge that the belief of the people. in the myths relating to their gods was as Hteral, and " as deeply rooted," as that of the mass of Christians " in the legends of our own sacred books." 

This conviction in regard to the religious faith of the Greeks gave a deeper interest than that of a merely learned investigation to the inquiry concerning the real meaning of these stories. For this the interpretation of texts and the study of institutions were less important than the examination of the contents of the myth itself, to determine what were the phenomena of nature which had originally suggested the attributes or the deeds ascribed to the deity or the hero who was its subject, and what moral significance might underlie them. 

Products of the poetic imagination as they are, the first requirement for the right reading of these myths is the understanding that all true imaginative vision " is founded on laws common to all human nature, and that it perceives, however darkly, things which are for all ages true." In this inquiry, Mr Ruskin's keen perception and long study of the aspects of nature, and of the forms in which the imagination has expressed itself, together with the bent of his disposition toward moral interpretations of nature and of life, gave him special ad- vantages. 

His explanations are always illuminative and suggestive, full of the fine insight of a subtle and penetrative genius. His exposition of the myths of Athena in the first section of the present volume, setting forth the conception of her as the life-giving and spirit-inspiring Queen of the Air, though it may not include all that the enlightened Greek worshipped in her ideal image, and though it may be modified by the conclusions of a deeper scholarship, yet does justice, as no other treatment of the subject had done, to the beauty, variety, and power of the spiritual conceptions which were associated with the myths of the birth and attributes of the goddess, and of her relations to mankind. Now and then it may seem that the play of Mr Ruskin's fancy passes the bounds of certitude; but when the correctness of his interpretation is questionable, its value as a suggestion of the true direction for further inquiry may be quite unimpaired.

The second of the three sections of this volume deals less directly with the myths of Athena and is mainly occupied with the exposition of her supposed relation to the vital force in material organisms. The third section is made up of various notes connected by their ethical purport with the conception of Athena as the directress of the imagination and the will. 

They have little to do with the elucidation of Greek thought, but they set forth in a discursive and somewhat arbitrary manner the opinions of Mr Ruskin on many subjects, — such as the function of Athena to teach men not to make their work beautiful, but to make it right; on art as the expression of the spirit of the artist; on the foundation of art in moral character; on the fact that all lovely art is didactic in its own nature, — as, for example, that of Turner; on the moral source of his own power; on the foundation of morals and art in war; on modern multitudes and their occupations; and, finally, on the object of all true policy and true economy. 

The greater part of this last portion of the volume thus becomes a treatise on political economy, government, and education, and on the opposition of the spirit of Modesty to that of the spirit of Liberty, " that evil liberty which men are now glorifying and proclaiming as the essence of the gospel to all the earth."

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  • Author: John Ruskin
  • Publication date :(1893)

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