RUSKIN, John Quotes
(1819-1900), English critic, essayist and social reformer
Doing is the great thing. For if, resolutely, people do what is right, in time they come to like doing it.
To cultivate sympathy you must be among living beings and thinking about them; to cultivate admiration, among beautiful things and looking at them.
Consider whether we ought not to be more in the habit of seeking honor from our descendants than from our ancestors; thinking it better to be nobly remembered than nobly born; and striving so to live, that our sons, and our sons' sons, for ages to come, might still lead their children reverently to the doors out of which we had been carried to the grave, saying, "Look, this was his house, this was his chamber."
The architecture of a nation is great only when it is as universal and established as its language, and when provinncial differences are nothing more than so many dialects.
Architecture is the art which so disposes and adorns the edifices raised by man, that the sight of them may contribute to his mental health, power, and pleasure.
All great art is the expression of man's delight in God's work, not his own.
All that is good in art is the expression of one soul talking to another, and is precious according to the greatness of the soul that utters it.
The names of great painters are like passing bells.—In Velasquez you hear sounded the fall of Spain; in Titian, that of Venice; in Leonardo, that of Milan; in Raphael, that of Rome.—And there is profound justice in this; for in proportion to the nobleness of power is the guilt of its use for purposes vain or vile; and hitherto the greater the art the more surely has it been used, and used solely, for the decoration of pride, or the provoking of sensuality.
Three forms of asceticism have existed in this weak world.—Religious asceticism, being the refusal of pleasure and knowledge for the sake, as supposed, of religion; seen chiefly in the middle ages.—Military asceticism, being the refusal of pleasure and knowledge for the sake of power; seen chiefly in the early days of Sparta and Rome.—And monetary asceticism, consisting in the refusal of pleasure and knowledge for the sake of money; seen in the present days of London and Manchester.
To my early knowledge of the Bible I owe the best part of my taste in literature, and the most precious, and on the whole, the one essential part of my education.
To use books rightly, is to go to them for help; to appeal to them when our own knowledge and power fail; to be led by them into wider sight and purer conception than our own, and to receive from them the united sentence of the judges and councils of all time, against our solitary and unstable opinions.
Say all you have to say in the fewest possible words, or your reader will be sure to skip them; and in the plainest possible words, or he will certainly misunderstand them.
How often it is difficult to be wisely charitable—to do good without multiplying the sources of evil. To give alms is nothing unless you give thought also.—It is written, not "blessed is he that feedeth the poor," but " blessed is he that considereth the poor." A little thought and a little kindness are often worth more than a great deal of money.
Cheerfulness is as natural to the heart of a man in strong health, as color to his cheek; and wherever there is habitual gloom, there must be either bad air, unwholesome food, improperly severe labor, or erring habits of life.
Conceit may puff a man up, but can never prop him up.
Cunning signifies, especially, a habit or gift of overreaching, accompanied with enjoyment and a sense of superiority.—It is associated with small and dull conceit, and with an absolute want of sympathy or affection.—It is the intensest rendering of vulgarity, absolute and utter.
Every duty which we omit, obscures some truth which we should have known.
Economy, whether public or private, means the wise management of labor, mainly in three senses; applying labor rationally, preserving its produce carefully, and distributing its produce seasonably.
Education does not mean teaching people to know what they do not know; it means teaching them to behave as they do not behave.
Do not let us lie at all. Do not think of one falsity as harmless, and another as slight, and another as unintended. Cast them all aside; they may be light and accidental, but they are ugly soot from the smoke of the pit, and it is better that our hearts should be swept clean of them, without one care as to which is largest or blackest.
You will find it less easy to uproot faults, than to choke them by gaining virtues.
They are the weakest-minded and the hardest-hearted men that most love change.
Genius is only a superior power of seeing.
Of all the pulpits from which the human voice is ever sent forth, there is none from which it reaches so far as from the grave.
There is a care for trifles which proceeds from love and conscience, and which is most holy; and there is a care for trifles which comes of idleness and frivolity, and is most base.—And so, also, there is a gravity proceeding from thought, which is most noble, and a gravity proceeding from dullness and mere incapability for enjoyment, which is most base.
He who comes up to his own idea of greatness, must always have had a very low standard of it in his mind.
That happy sense of direct relation with Heaven is known evidently to multitudes of human souls of all faiths, and in all lands; evidently often a dream,— demonstrably, as I conceive, often a reality; in all cases dependent on resolution, patience, self-denial, prudence, obedience; of which some pure hearts are capable without effort, and some by constancy.
In the utmost solitudes of nature the existence of hell seems to me as legibly declared, by a thousand spiritual utterances, as that of heaven.
I believe the first test of a truly great man is his humility.
Imperfection is in some sort essential to all that we know of life.—Nothing that lives is, or can be rigidly perfect.—The fox-glove blossom, a third part bud; a third part past, and a third part in full bloom, is a type of the life of this world.
No human face is exactly the same in its lines on each side; no leaf is perfect in its lobes, and no branch in its symmetry.—All admit irregularity, as they imply change.—To banish imperfection is to destroy expression, to check exertion, to paralyze vitality.—All things are better, lovelier, and more beloved for the imperfections which have been divinely appointed, that the law of human life may be effort, and the law of human judgment may be mercy.
The finer the nature, the more flaws will show through the clearness of it; and it is a law of this universe that the best things shall be seldomest seen in their best forms.
It will be found that they are the weakest-minded and the hardest-hearted men, that most love change.
God intends no man to live in this world without working; but it seems to me no less evident that He intends every man to be happy in his work.
It is only by labor that thought can be made healthy, and only by thought that labor can be made happy; and the two cannot be separated with impunity.
Now the basest thought possible concerning man is, that he has no spiritual nature; and the foolish misunderstanding of him possible is, that he has, or should have, no animal nature. For his nature is nobly animal, nobly spiritual,—coherently and irrevocably so; neither part of it may, but at its peril, expel, despise, or defy the other.
You can talk a mob into anything; its feelings may be—usually are—on the whole generous and right: but it has no foundation for them, no hold of them; you may tease or tickle it into any, at your pleasure; it thinks by infection, for the most part, catching a passion like a cold, and there is nothing so little that it will not roar itself wild about, when the fit is on; nothing so great but it will forget it in an hour, when the fit is past. But a gentleman's, or a gentle nation's passions are just, measured, and continuous.
My mother's influence in molding my character was conspicuous. She forced me to learn daily long chapters of the Bible by heart. To that discipline and patient, accurate resolve I owe not only much of my general power of taking pains, but the best part of my taste for literature.
It is better to be nobly remembered, than nobly born.
The enormous influence of novelty—the way in which it quickens observation, sharpens sensation, and exalts sentiment—is not half enough taken note of by us, and is to me a very sorrowful matter. And yet, if we try to obtain perpetual change, change itself will become monotonous; and then we are reduced to that old despair, "If water chokes, what will you drink after it?" The two points of practical wisdom in the matter are, first, to be content with as little novelty as possible at a time; and secondly, to preserve, as much as possible, the sources of novelty.
The passions of mankind are partly protective, partly beneficent, like the chaff and grain of the corn, but none without their use, none without nobleness when seen in balanced unity with the rest of the spirit which they are charged to defend.
There's no music in a "rest," but there's the making of music in it. And people are always missing that part of the life melody, always talking of perseverance and courage and fortitude; but patience is the finest and worthiest part of fortitude, and the rarest, too.
I have known twenty persevering girls to one patient one; but it is only the twenty-first one who can do her work, out and out, and enjoy it. For patience lies at the root of all pleasures as well as of all powers.
No peace was ever won from fate by subterfuge or agreement; no peace is ever in store for any of us, but that which we shall win by victory over shame or sin,—victory over the sin that oppresses, as well as over that which corrupts.
If we pretend to have reached either perfection or satisfaction, we have degraded ourselves and our work. God's work only may express that, but ours may never have that sentence written upon it, "Behold it was very good."
Touching plagiarism in general, it is to be remembered that all men who have sense and feeling are being continually helped; they are taught by every person whom they meet and enriched by everything that falls in their way. The greatest is he who has been oftenest aided; and, if the attainments of all human minds could be traced to their real sources, it would be found that the world had been laid most under contribution by the men of most original power, and that every day of their existence deepened their debt, to their race, while it enlarged their gifts to it.
It is shallow criticism that would define poetry as confined to literary productions in rhyme and metre. The written poem is only poetry talking, and the statue, the picture, and the musical composition are poetry acting. Milton and Goethe, at their desks, were not more truly poets than Phidias with his chisel, Raphael at his easel, or deaf Beethoven bending over his piano, inventing and producing strains which he himself could never hope to hear.
I have been more and more convinced, the more I think of it, that, in general, pride is at the bottom of all great mistakes. All the other passions do occasional good; but whenever pride puts in its word, everything goes wrong; and what it might really be desirable to do, quietly and innocently, it is mortally dangerous to do proudly.
There is a certain noble pride, through which merits shine brighter than through modesty.
He is only advancing in life, whose heart is getting softer, his blood warmer, his brain quicker, and his spirit entering into living peace.
The art of nations is cumulative, just as science and history are; the work of living men not superseding but building itself on the work of the past.
Anything that makes religion a second object makes it no object.—He who offers to God a second place offers him no place.
The blind and cowardly spirit of evil is forever telling you that evil things are pardonable, and you shall not die for them; and that good things are impossible, and you need not live for them. And, if you believe these things, you will find some day, to your cost, that they are untrue.
We treat God with irreverence by banishing him from our thoughts, not by referring to his will on slight occasions.
Nothing is ever done beautifully which is done in rivalship; or nobly, which is done in pride.
You will find that the mere resolve not to be useless, and the honest desire to help other people, will, in the quickest and delicatest ways, improve yourself.
O powers illimitable! it is but the outer hem of God's great mantle, our poor stars do gem.
No one can ask honestly or hope fully to be delivered from temptation unless he has himself honestly and firmly determined to do the best he can to keep out of it.
Railway travelling is not travelling at all; it is merely being sent to a place, and very little different from becoming a parcel.
There is a care for trifles which proceeds from love of conscience, and is most holy; and a care for trifles which comes of idleness and frivolity, and is most base.
Without seeking, truth cannot be known at all. It can neither be declared from pulpits, nor set down in articles, nor in any wise prepared and sold in packages ready for use. Truth must be ground for every man by himself out of its husk, with such help as he can get, indeed, but not without stern labor of his own.
He who has once stood beside the grave, to look back upon the companionship which has been forever closed, feeling how impotent there is the wild love, or the keen sorrow, to give one instant's pleasure to the pulseless heart, or atone in the lowest measure to the departed spirit for the hour of unkindness, will scarcely for the future incur that debt to the heart which can only be discharged to the dust.
Disorder in a drawing room is vulgar; in an antiquary's study, not; the black battle-stain on a soldier's face is not vulgar, but the dirty face of a housemaid is.
The buckling on of the knight's armor by his lady's hand was not a mere caprice of romantic fashion. It is the type of an eternal truth that the soul's armor is never well set to the heart unless a woman's hand has braced it, and it is only when she braces it loosely that the honor of manhood fails.
The moment a man can really do his work, he becomes speechless about it; all words are idle to him; all theories. Does a bird need to theorize about building its nest, or boast of it when built? All good work is essentially done that way; without hesitation; without difficulty; without boasting.
Youth is the period of building up in habits, and hopes, and faiths.—Not an hour but is trembling with destinies; not a moment, once passed, of which the appointed work can ever be done again, or the neglected blow struck on the cold iron.
Consider what heavy responsibility lies upon you in your youth, to determine, among realities, by what you will be delighted, and, among imaginations, by whose you will be led.