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قراءة كتاب The Seven Lamps of Architecture

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‏اللغة: English
The Seven Lamps of Architecture

The Seven Lamps of Architecture

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دار النشر: Project Gutenberg
الصفحة رقم: 8

of adoration: not the gift, but the giving.2 And see how much more charity the full understanding of this might admit, among classes of men of naturally opposite feelings; and how much more nobleness in the work. There is no need to offend by importunate, self-proclaiming splendor. Your gift may be given in an unpresuming way. Cut one or two shafts out of a porphyry whose preciousness those only would know who would desire it to be so used; add another month's labor to the undercutting of a few capitals, whose delicacy will not be seen nor loved by one beholder of ten thousand; see that the simplest masonry of the edifice be perfect and substantial; and to those who regard such things, their witness will be clear and impressive; to those who regard them not, all will at least be inoffensive. But do not think the feeling itself a folly, or the act itself useless. Of what use was that dearly-bought water of the well of Bethlehem with which the King of Israel slaked the dust of Adullam?—yet was not thus better than if he had drunk it? Of what use was that passionate act of Christian sacrifice, against which, first uttered by the false tongue, the very objection we would now conquer took a sullen tone for ever?[F] So also let us not ask of what use our offering is to the church: it is at least better for us than if it had been retained for ourselves. It may be better for others also: there is, at any rate, a chance of this; though we must always fearfully and widely shun the thought that the magnificence of the temple can materially add to the efficiency of the worship or to the power of the ministry. Whatever we do, or whatever we offer, let it not interfere with the simplicity of the one, or abate, as if replacing, the zeal of the other. That is the abuse and fallacy of Romanism, by which the true spirit of Christian offering is directly contradicted. The treatment of the Papists' temple is eminently exhibitory; it is surface work throughout; and the danger and evil of their church decoration lie, not in its reality—not in the true wealth and art of it, of which the lower people are never cognizant—but in its tinsel and glitter, in the gilding of the shrine and painting of the image, in embroidery of dingy robes and crowding of imitated gems; all this being frequently thrust forward to the concealment of what is really good or great in their buildings.3 Of an offering of gratitude which is neither to be exhibited nor rewarded, which is neither to win praise nor purchase salvation, the Romanist (as such) has no conception.

IX. While, however, I would especially deprecate the imputation of any other acceptableness or usefulness to the gift itself than that which it receives from the spirit of its presentation, it may be well to observe, that there is a lower advantage which never fails to accompany a dutiful observance of any right abstract principle. While the first fruits of his possessions were required from the Israelite as a testimony of fidelity, the payment of those first fruits was nevertheless rewarded, and that connectedly and specifically, by the increase of those possessions. Wealth, and length of days, and peace, were the promised and experienced rewards of his offering, though they were not to be the objects of it. The tithe paid into the storehouse was the expressed condition of the blessing which there should not be room enough to receive. And it will be thus always: God never forgets any work or labor of love; and whatever it may be of which the first and best proportions or powers have been presented to Him, he will multiply and increase sevenfold. Therefore, though it may not be necessarily the interest of religion to admit the service of the arts, the arts will never flourish until they have been primarily devoted to that service—devoted, both by architect and employer; by the one in scrupulous, earnest, affectionate design; by the other in expenditure at least more frank, at least less calculating, than that which he would admit in the indulgence of his own private feelings. Let this principle be but once fairly acknowledged among us; and however it may be chilled and repressed in practice, however feeble may be its real influence, however the sacredness of it may be diminished by counter-workings of vanity and self-interest, yet its mere acknowledgment would bring a reward; and with our present accumulation of means and of intellect, there would be such an impulse and vitality given to art as it has not felt since the thirteenth century. And I do not assert this as other than a national consequence: I should, indeed, expect a larger measure of every great and spiritual faculty to be always given where those faculties had been wisely and religiously employed; but the impulse to which I refer, would be, humanly speaking, certain; and would naturally result from obedience to the two great conditions enforced by the Spirit of Sacrifice, first, that we should in everything do our best; and, secondly, that we should consider increase of apparent labor as an increase of beauty in the building. A few practical deductions from these two conditions, and I have done.

X. For the first: it is alone enough to secure success, and it is for want of observing it that we continually fail. We are none of us so good architects as to be able to work habitually beneath our strength; and yet there is not a building that I know of, lately raised, wherein it is not sufficiently evident that neither architect nor builder has done his best. It is the especial characteristic of modern work. All old work nearly has been hard work. It may be the hard work of children, of barbarians, of rustics; but it is always their utmost. Ours has as constantly the look of money's worth, of a stopping short wherever and whenever we can, of a lazy compliance with low conditions; never of a fair putting forth of our strength. Let us have done with this kind of work at once: cast off every temptation to it: do not let us degrade ourselves voluntarily, and then mutter and mourn over our short comings; let us confess our poverty or our parsimony, but not belie our human intellect. It is not even a question of how much we are to do, but of how it is to be done; it is not a question of doing more, but of doing better. Do not let us boss our roofs with wretched, half-worked, blunt-edged rosettes; do not let us flank our gates with rigid imitations of mediæval statuary. Such things are mere insults to common sense, and only unfit us for feeling the nobility of their prototypes. We have so much, suppose, to be spent in decoration; let us go to the Flaxman of his time, whoever he may be, and bid him carve for us a single statue, frieze or capital, or as many as we can afford, compelling upon him the one condition, that they shall be the best he can do; place them where they will be of the most value, and be content. Our other capitals may be mere blocks, and our other niches empty. No matter: better our work unfinished than all bad. It may be that we do not desire ornament of so high an order; choose, then, a less developed style, also, if you will, rougher material; the law which we are enforcing requires only that what we pretend to do and to give, shall both be the best of their kind; choose, therefore, the Norman hatchet work, instead of the Flaxman frieze and statue, but let it be the best hatchet work; and if you cannot afford marble, use Caen stone, but from