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pencil study of the Place Amiral Courbet, now in the drawing school at Oxford. And, returning home, he gave an account of his autumn's work in the lecture at the Royal Institution, January 29, 1869, on the “ Flamboyant Architecture of the Valley of the Somme.” This lecture was never published in full; but part of the original text is printed in the third chapter of the work we have next to notice, “ The Queen of the Air.”
GREEK FAITHS AND CHRISTIAN MYTHS.
“For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves.” Rom. ii. 14.
In spite of a “classical education” and the influence of Aristotle upon the immature art-theories of his earlier works, Mr. Ruskin was known, in his younger days, as a Goth, and the enemy of the Greeks. When he began life, his sense of justice made him take the side of modern painters against classical tradition; his sympathy, much wider than that of ordinary critics, led him to praise Gothic architecture, and his common-sense prompted him to recommend it as a domestic style more convenient than the pseudo-classic of the decadent Renaissance. Later on, when considering the great questions of education and the aims of life, he entirely set aside the common routine of Greek and Latin grammar as the allin-all of culture. But this was not because he shared Carlyle's contempt for classical studies.
In “ Modern Painters," vol. iji., he had followed out the indications of nature-worship, and tried
to analyze in general terms the attitude of the Greek spirit towards landscape scenery, as betrayed in Homer and Aristophanes and the poets usually read.
Since that time his interest in Greek literature had been gradually increasing. He had made efforts to improve his knowledge of the language; and he had spent many days in sketching and studying the terra-cottas and vases and coins at the British Museum. He had also taken up some study of Egyptology, through Champollion and Bunsen and Birch, in the hope of tracing the origin of Greek decorative art. At that stage of archæological discovery it was not so clearly seen as it is to-day that Egypt was only one factor in the development of Greece. The discoveries at Hissarlik and Mycenæ, and in Cyprus and elsewhere, had not shown the Aryan and Assyrian parentage of many Greek customs and myths and forms of art. Comparative mythology, twenty-five years ago, was a department of philology, introduced to the English public chiefly by Professor Max Müller. Under his influence Mr. Ruskin entered step by step upon an inquiry which afterwards became of singular importance in his life and thought.
In 1865 he had told his hearers at Bradford that Greek religion was not, as commonly supposed, the worship of beauty, but of wisdom and power. They did not, in their great age, worship Venus, but Apollo and Athena. And he regarded their mythology as a sincere tradition, effective in forming a high moral type and a great school of art. In the “ Ethics of the Dust” he had explained the myth of Athena as parallel to that of Neith in Egypt; and in his fable of Neith and St. Barbara he had hinted at a comparison, on equal terms, of ancient and mediæval mythology. He ended by saying that, though he would not have his young hearers believe “ that the Greeks were better than we, and that their gods were real angels,” yet their art and morals were in some respects greater, and their beliefs were worth respectful and sympathetic study.
“The Queen of the Air” is his contribution to this study. Like much of his work, it is only a fragment indicating what he would have done, and began to do. Ever since, he has been accumulating material for farther investigation of the vast, bewildering sphere which embraces, too amply for one man's review, the orbits of art, and science, and ethics, and religion, as they rise and set upon his limited horizon, and roll, in a mazy dance, by laws that elude his reckonings, round some "far-off, divine event, to which the whole creation moves."
On March 9, 1869, his lecture at University College, London, on “Greek Myths of Cloud and Storm,” began with an attempt to explain in popular terms how a myth differs from mere fiction on the one hand and from allegory on the other, being “not conceived didactically, but didactic in its essence, as all good art is.” He showed that Greek poetry dealt with a series of nature-myths with which were interwoven ethical suggestions; that these were connected with Egyptian beliefs, but that the full force of them was only developed in the central period of Greek history, and their interpretation was to be read in the sympathetic analysis of the spirit of men like Pindar and Æschylus. “ The great question,” he said, “in reading a story is, always, not what wild hunter dreamed, or what childish race first dreaded it; but what wise man first perfectly told, and what strong people first perfectly lived by it. And the real meaning of any myth is that which it has at the noblest age of the nation among whom it was current.” This, of course, is a higher view than that of the anthropological and archæological specialist; but at the same time, the historical method is necessary as a preliminary and a check upon the tendency to fanciful interpretation, which Mr. Ruskin, in common with the whole philological school, does not escape. With certain amendments, however, his work is most val. uable, as an exposition of the system of Greek religion, the worship of four groups of naturepowers, in earth, water, fire and air; and rising out of a low animism and fetishism into high moral and intellectual conceptions.