Sunday, 7 September 2008

Ruskiin delights in the Rhone

For all other rivers there is a surface, and an underneath, and a vaguely displeasing idea of the bottom. But the Rhone flows like one lambent jewel; its surface is nowhere, its ethereal self is everywhere, the iridescent rush and translucent strength of it blue to the shore, and radiant to the depth.

Fifteen feet thick, of not flowing but flying water; not water, neither, - melted glacier, rather, one should call it; the force of the ice is with it, and the wreathing of the clouds, the gladness of the sky, and the continuance of Time.

Waves of clear sea are, indeed, lovely to watch, but they are always coming of gone, never in any taken shape to be seen for a second. But here was one mighty wave that was always itself, and every fluted swirl of it, constant as the wreathing of a shell. No wasting away of the fallen foam, no pause for gathering of power, no helpless ebb of discouraged recoil; but alike through bright day and lulling night, the never-pausing plunge, and never-fading flash, and never-hushing whisper, and, while the sun was up, the ever-answering glow of unearthly aquamarine, ultramarine, violet-blue, gentian-blue, peacock-blue, river-of-paradise blue, glass of a painted window melted in the sun, and the witch of the Alps flinging the spun tresses of it of ever from her snow.

The innocent way, too, in which the river used to stop to look into every little corner. Great torrents always seem angry, and great rivers too often sullen; but there is no anger, no distain, in the Rhone. It seemed as if the mountain stream was in mere bliss at recovering itself again out of the lake-sleep, and raced because it rejoiced in racing, fain yet to return and stay. There were pieces of wave that danced all day as if Perdita were looking on to learn; there were little streams that skipped like lambs and leaped like chamois; there were pools that shook the sunshine all through them, and were rippled in layers of overlaid ripples, like crystal sand; there were currents that twisted the light into golden braids, and inlaid the threads with turquoise enamel; there were strips of stream that had certainly above the lake been millstreams, and were looking busily for mills to turn again; there were shoots of stream that had once shot fearfully into the air, and now sprang up again laughing that they had only fallen a foot of two; - and in the midst of all the gay glittering and eddied lingering, the noble bearing by of the midmost depth, so mighty, yet so terrorless and harmless, with its swallows skimming instead of petrels, and the dear old decrepit town (Geneva) as safe in the embracing sweep of it as if it were set in a brooch of sapphire…

Praeterita John Ruskin Vol II
Pub: 1907 George Allen
Chapter V. The Simplon p 130

Saturday, 6 September 2008

A Small Aspen Tree

Whilst traveling to Chamouni and resting at Fontainebleau. An Encounter with a small Aspen tree on the road after feeling unwell.

… And today, I missed rocks, palace, and fountain all alike, and found myself lying on the bank of a cart-road in the sand, with no prospect whatever but that small aspen tree against the blue sky.

Languidly, but not idly, I began to draw it; and as I drew, the languor passed away: the beautiful lines insisted on being traced, - without weariness. More and more beautiful they became, as each rose out of the rest, and took its place in the air. With wonder increasing every instant, I saw that they ‘composed’ themselves, by finer laws than any known of men. At last, the tree was there, and everything that I had thought before about trees, nowhere…

IV Fontainebleau
Praeterita John Ruskin Vol II
Pub: 1907 George Allen page 110

As I look deeper into the mirror

…as I look deeper into the mirror , I find myself a more curious person than I thought. I used to fancy that everybody would like clouds and rocks as well as I did, if once told to look at them; whereas, after fifty years of trial, I find that is not so, even in modern days; having long ago known that… the clouds and mountains which have been life to me, were mere inconvenience and horror to most of mankind…

Praeterita John Ruskin Vol II
Pub: 1907 George Allen
Chapter 1

The Art of Forgetting

Its Snowing in Exeter

"Rather tired today. Its snowing in Exeter! Weather systems have gone mad - but it did look pretty. Woke up this morning after having an anxiety dream - I had to order a Chinese takeaway for a group of people.  I kept loosing the list, muddles all round - great anxiety..,. you know the sort of thing. Its a petty situation but indicates where I am at the moment. It made me feel awful and depressed when I woke up - the art of forgetting when it is needed is essential. I need to forget about jobs and chores and money and schedules and look about me and think about silence and music, pictures and beauty, essences and nuances. Its quite an art to juggle it all about and not loose touch with the bit that pays the bills but keep the bit that feeds the soul."

Vicky Spring 08

The Promontory of Sesti di Levante

The promontory of Sesti di Levante Nov 4th 1840

…very wet all morning; merely able to get the four miles to this most lovely village, the clouds drifting like smoke from the hills, and hanging in wreaths about the white churches on their woody slopes. Kept in here till three, then the clouds broke, and we got up the woody promontory that overhangs the village. The clouds were rising gradually from the Apennines, fragments entangled here and there in the ravines catching the level sunlight like so many tongues of fire; the dark blue outline of the hills clear as crystal against a pale distant purity of green sky, the sun touching here and there upon their turfy precipices and the white, square villages along the gulph gleaming like silver to the north-west; - a mass of higher mountain, plunging down into broad valleys dark with olive, their summits at first grey with rain, then deep blue with flying showers – the sun suddenly catching the near woods at their base, already coloured exquisitely by the autumn, with such a burst of robbing, - penetrating, glow as Turner only could even imagine, set off by the grey storm behind. To the south, an expanse of sea, varied by reflection of white Apline cloud, and delicate lines of most pure blue, the low sun sending its line of light – forty miles long – from the horizon; the surges dashing far below against rocks of black marble, and lines of foam drifting back with the current into the open sea. Overhead, a group, of dark Italian pine and evergreen oak, with such lovely ground about their roots as we have in the best bits of the islands of Derwentwater. This continued till near sunset, when a tall double rainbow rose to the east over the fiery woods, and as the sun sank, the storm of falling rain on the mountains became suddenly purple – nearly crimson; the rainbow, its hues scarcely traceable, one broad belt of crimson, the clouds above all fire. The whole scene such as can only come once or twice in a lifetime…

Praeterita John Ruskin Vol II
Pub: 1907 George Allen
III Cumae p61