Ruskin on Art and Inspiration

George P. Landow, Professor of English and Art History, Brown University

In a note Ruskin explains: "This opposition of art to inspiration is long and gracefully dwelt upon by Plato in his Phaedrus; using, in the course of his argument, almost the words of St. Paul . . .: 'It is the testimony of the ancients, that the madness which is of God is a nobler thing than the wisdom which is of men;' and again, 'He who sets himself to any work with which the Muses have to do' (i.e., to any of the fine arts) 'without madness, thinking that by art alone he can do his work sufficiently, will be found vain and incapable, and the work of temperance and rationalism will be thrust aside and obscured by that of inspiration.' The passages to the same effect, relating especially to poetry, are innumerable in nearly all ancient writers; but in this of Plato, the entire compass of the fine arts is intended to be embraced" (11.178-179n).

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