avoided and repudiated there—although cases sometimes

John Ruskin, in his `Modern Painters' (Vol. IV., chap. XX., Section 32), remarks: --

avoided and repudiated there—although cases sometimes

"Robert Browning is unerring in every sentence he writes of the Middle Ages; always vital, right, and profound; so that in the matter of art, . . .there is hardly a principle connected with the mediaeval temper, that he has not struck upon in those seemingly careless and too rugged rhymes of his. There is a curious instance, by the way, in a short poem *1* referring to this very subject of tomb and image sculpture; all illustrating just one of those phases of local human character which, though belonging to Shakespeare's own age, he [Shakespeare] never noticed, because it was specially Italian and un-English; connected also closely with the influence of mountains on the heart, and therefore with our immediate inquiries.*2* I mean the kind of admiration with which a southern artist regarded the STONE he worked in; and the pride which populace or priest took in the possession of precious mountain substance, worked into the pavements of their cathedrals, and the shafts of their tombs.

avoided and repudiated there—although cases sometimes

-- *1* `The Bishop orders his Tomb in St. Praxed's Church'. *2* `The Mountain Glory', the subject of the chapter from which this is taken. --

avoided and repudiated there—although cases sometimes

"Observe, Shakespeare, in the midst of architecture and tombs of wood, or freestone, or brass, naturally thinks of GOLD as the best enriching and ennobling substance for them; in the midst also of the fever of the Renaissance he writes, as every one else did, in praise of precisely the most vicious master of that school -- Giulio Romano*; but the modern poet, living much in Italy, and quit of the Renaissance influence, is able fully to enter into the Italian feeling, and to see the evil of the Renaissance tendency, not because he is greater than Shakespeare, but because he is in another element, and has seen other things. . . .

-- * `Winter's Tale', V. 2. 106. --

"I know no other piece of modern English, prose or poetry, in which there is so much told, as in these lines [`The Bishop orders his Tomb'], of the Renaissance spirit, -- its worldliness, inconsistency, pride, hypocrisy, ignorance of itself, love of art, of luxury, and of good Latin. It is nearly all that I said of the Central Renaissance in thirty pages of the `Stones of Venice' put into as many lines, Browning's being also the antecedent work. The worst of it is that this kind of concentrated writing needs so much SOLUTION before the reader can fairly get the good of it, that people's patience fails them, and they give the thing up as insoluble; though, truly, it ought to be to the current of common thought like Saladin's talisman, dipped in clear water, not soluble altogether, but making the element medicinable."

Professor Dowden, in regard to Mr. Browning's doctrines on the subject of art, remarks: --

"It is always in an unfavorable light that he depicts the virtuoso or collector, who, conscious of no unsatisfied aspirations such as those which make the artist's joy and sorrow, rests in the visible products of art, and looks up to nothing above or beyond them. . . . The unbelieving and worldly spirit of the dying Bishop, who orders his tomb at St. Praxed's, his sense of the vanity of the world simply because the world is passing out of his reach, the regretful memory of the pleasures of his youth, the envious spite towards Gandolf, who robbed him of the best position for a tomb, and the dread lest his reputed sons should play him false and fail to carry out his designs, are united with a perfect appreciation of Renaissance art, and a luxurious satisfaction, which even a death-bed cannot destroy, in the splendor of voluptuous form and color. The great lump of lapis lazuli, "`Big as a Jew's head cut off at the nape, Blue as a vein o'er the Madonna's breast', must poise between his sculptured knees; the black basalt must contrast with the bas-relief in bronze below: -- "`St. Praxed in a glory, and one Pan Ready to twitch the Nymph's last garment off'; the inscription must be `choice Latin, picked phrase, Tully's every word'."

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