THE HUMANITY OF THE HANDMADE
… But in the mediæval, or especially Christian, system of ornament, this slavery1 is done away with altogether; Christianity having recognized, in small things as well as great, the individual value of every soul. But it not only recognizes its value; it confesses its imperfection, in only bestowing dignity upon the acknowledgment of unworthiness. That admission of lost power and fallen nature, which the Greek or Ninevite felt to be intensely painful, and, as far as might be, altogether refused, the Christian makes daily and hourly, contemplating the fact of it without fear, as tending, in the end, to God's greater glory. Therefore, to every spirit which Christianity summons to her service, her exhortation is: Do what you can, and confess frankly what you are unable to do; neither let your effort be shortened for fear of failure, nor your confession silenced for fear of shame. And it is, perhaps, the principal admirableness of the Gothic schools of architecture, that they thus receive the results of the labour of inferior minds; and out of fragments full of imperfection, and betraying that imperfection in every touch, indulgently raise up a stately and unaccusable whole.
But the modern English mind has this much in common with that of the Greek, that it intensely desires, in all things, the utmost completion or perfec-
From The Complete Works of John Ruskin. E.T. Cook and Alexander Wedderburn, eds. Lon-
don: Longmans, Green and Company, 1907.
1. The “slavery” to which Ruskin refers here is explained in the previous paragraph of the text,
not given in this excerpt: it is ornament of the Greek, Ninevite, and Egytian schools that re-
quired “absolute precision.” “Ed.”