The following passage, which closes "Traffic," shows Ruskin in the manner of the sage (and Old Testament prophet) summing up his message and making use of the prophet's alternation of negative and positive, his promise of doom followed by a vision of grace. In what ways does Ruskin console the audience he has been attacking?
The rest is silence. Last words of the chief wisdom of the heathen, spoken of this idol of riches; this idol of yours; this golden image, high by measureless cubits, set up where your green fields of England are furnace- burnt into the likeness of the plain of Dura; this idol, forbidden to us, first of all idols, by our own Master and faith; forbidden to us also by every human lip that has ever, in any age or people, been accounted of as able to speek according to the purposes of God. Continue to make that forbidden deity your principal one, and soon no more art, no more science, no more pleasure will be possible. Catastrophe will come; or, worse than catastrophe, slow mouldering and withering into Hades. But if you can fix some conception of a true human state of life to be striven for- life, good for all men, as for yourselves; if you can determine some honest and simple order of existence; following those trodden ways of wisdom, which are pleasantness, and seeking her quiet and withdrawn paths, which are peace; - then, and so sanctifying wealth into 'commonwealth,' all your art, your literature, your daily labours, your domestic affection, and citizen's duty, will join and increase into one magnificent harmony. You will know then how to build, well enough; you will build with stone well, but with flesh better; temples not made with hands, but riveted of hearts; and that kind of marble, crimson-veined, is indeed eternal.
- Ruskin's combination of satiric definition and symbolical grotesques
- The Prophetic Address to the Audience in John Ruskin's "Traffic" from The Crown of Wild Olive
- Ruskin as Victorian Sage: The Example of "Traffic"
Last modified 2000