from C. Stephen Finley, Nature's Covenant: Figures of Landscape in Ruskin
(The Pennsylvania State University Press, 1992), pp. 227-39.

 

Conclusion

 

THE TYPOLOGY OF THE ATONEMENT

 

Thus, then, for the last time, rises the question,
what is the true dignity of colour? We left
that doubt a little while ago among the clouds,
wondering what they had been made so scarlet for.

"The Hesperid Aegle"

 

 

In reading the natural types of Symmetry, Infinity, and

Repose, Ruskin seeks to provide in Modern Painters II an

initial catalogue of visionary motives. In such types

humanity gets a glimpse of the restored Eden, wherein the

curse upon Adam and Eve, delivered upon their expulsion from

the first paradise, will be lifted, and where the perfected

spirits of men and women, gathered to Christ in his

peaceable kingdom, will render the completed meanings and

the consummate antitypes of a final harvest of human

endeavor and natural forms. Such "peace and rest" is the

"utmost good and comfort" which could be "bought for us by

the Redeemer." [n.1] This glimpse, this foretaste of glory

divine is a completed world made "possible through

perfection" (4: 114), through the long, difficult, and

eminently human-centered process of being "sanctified," of

growing up "by slow degrees" to the "measure of the full

stature of Christ." [n.2] These natural types participate in the

pilgrimage of our earthly life by helping us to live in both

worlds, in two times: in the present and in the saving

sense of the present only fully attainable through the

"sweet air of futurity." Both earthly and heavenly worlds

are equally vital and real, united not by any emptying out

of the meaning of the one into the other, but by an

anagogical co-presence, in which human homelessness and

eternal habitation are both signed in the abode of the

"scarlet arch" of dawn. This arch and its color not only

convey the promise of light, God's mercy which overspans and

contains the dark and troublous sea of mortality, but also

make visible, as it were, an inherent sacred architecture,

glimpsed, in the turning of day to night and night to day,

as the threshold of another world.

 

As eschatological types, these three figures appear in

the landscape as part of Ruskin's theory of Christian

progress, as affective signs for human hope. They are

clearly economic signs, allowing creative mediation and

exchange between romantic nature, with its poetics of the

infinite and the sublime, and the particular Evangelical

tropology of life as journey and trial. It was William Law,

in A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life (1792), who best

expressed this central experience and most immediate

Evangelical doctrine when he called on the faithful to be

"as new born babes, that are born into a new state of

things, to live as Pilgrims in spiritual watching, in holy

fear, and heavenly aspiring after another life." [n.3] Law and

Ruskin both, in their great invitation to this redemptive

process of sanctification, and in their announcement that we

should "live as Pilgrims in spiritual watching," are

enduring examples of what Frei identified as

Evangelicalism's "transfer of narrative continuity" from the

canon of Biblical books and their intertextual typology to

an "applicative sense" of the present time. In this

application the "crucial and indispensable continuity or

linkage of the story is the journey of the Christian person

from sin through justification to sanctification and

perfection." [n.4]

 

As we have noted, such an applicative sense is

volatile, carrying within it the potential for disengagement

from what must be, for orthodoxy, its sustaining rootedness

in the figures of Biblical narrative. In this manner it is

always already more than a sense, and operates as an

imperative, urging the prophetic application of the types so

that the present may not simply echo, or even recollect the

past, but be conformed to the integral figurality of

tradition. Such conforming is the confirmation of the

individual in the community identified by its faith, and

entails, again, so much more than recollection. It requires

nothing less than participation in the prophetic "Today, and

always Today"--the urgent application behind the motto of

Ruskin's seal. At its most radical, such an applied

typology reaches toward an accommodation of sacred life, in

which spiritual literacy goes beyond the repetition of the

figures to the plenitude of co-presence, as in Paul's great

affirmation of post-Incarnational existence: "For me to live

is Christ" (Phil. 1: 21). For Ruskin this prophetic

accommodation is carried out by the "won life," the life

that has learned theoria and can grasp the demand for self-

application. In "The Requiem," drawing upon a cognate

passage in Paul, he writes that "there is only one light" by

which the "life of Christ" can be read: "the light of the

life you now lead in the flesh; and that not the natural,

but the won life: 'Nevertheless, I live; yet not I, but

Christ liveth in me'" (24: 304; Gal. 2: 20).

 

In the case of Ruskin's natural types, this prophetic

application keeps them close to home, however far Symmetry,

Infinity, and Repose seemed to have wandered from narrative

continuity with Abraham, Isaac, or Moses. Pushed to their

limits, these types might well have typified, in a slowly

transforming and relinquishing secular tropology, a haven of

sensibility, instead of a heaven of spirits. But the

crucial linkage to Evangelical pilgrimage is too strong for

such a development, and the typology of Modern Painters too

deeply dyed--"Grain-tinctured," indeed--by Hebrews for that

to occur. The Pauline typological exegesis is still

powerful in Modern Painters, and Hebrews remains seminal,

both in its applicative sense, as the keynote text for all

later figures of spiritual exodus, and in its ritual and

liturgical typology. It is this latter that forms the basis

of Ruskin's meditation on color as "the type of love," on

scarlet "used with the hyssop, in the Levitical law," as the

"great sanctifying element of visible beauty" (7: 419, 414-

15). [n.5] We are never far in Ruskin's theory of nature from a

progress, a process of sanctification, but the "sanctifying

element" itself must not be confused with the process, since

it does not belong to humanity, nor even to nature, but

depends upon a mystery, even "the mystery" of cloud-color--

"purple, crimson, scarlet, and gold"--in the work of

redemption (7: 158).

 

Moderation, Unity, and Purity are the three additional

types, making up the "signature of God upon His works" (4:

75), which draw Ruskin's analysis in Modern Painters II.

These types show a distinct shift of emphasis from the

eschatological typology that sounds the major chord of the

second volume, since they are not typical of heaven, nor are

they addressed, in the same manner as Symmetry, Infinity,

and Repose, to the pilgrim in his or her "spiritual

watching." They are more concerned, in fact, with the

"sanctifying element" itself, and they anticipate the dense

moment of integration, the foregrounding of the self-

referentiality of Ruskin's own texts, in the next volume of

Modern Painters, in the first of two chapters on medieval

landscape. There, having traversed the extraordinary decade

between 1846 and 1856, via The Seven Lamps of Architecture,

The Stones of Venice, and the Edinburgh Lectures on

Architecture and Painting, Ruskin admonishes his readers to

watch for the ingathering of his disparate texts, for

"gradually our conclusions are knitting themselves together"

(5: 280). If we have read carefully, especially the second

volume of Stones of Venice, we should be ready to understand

that "colour is the most sacred element of all visible

things" (5: 281).

 

This passage may be set against the youthful

disparagement of color to be found throughout the first

volume of Modern Painters, where Ruskin often dismisses

color as merely "accidental" and "feeble," beneath the

authority of a "truth of form": "colour is indeed a most

unimportant characteristic of objects" (3: 162, 159). To

write the history of Ruskin's conversion to color, one which

could be optical, mythographical, or psychosexual, would

prove analogous to this study of typology, for as we come to

consider the typology of color in Ruskin we find all about

us this deepening of the grain, this turn toward greater

concentration on the "sanctifying element." [n.6] We can see

this movement as indicative of the growth and maturation of

Ruskin's covenant. The stirring of change and the gain in

intensity can be felt, in Modern Painters II, in the types

of Moderation, Unity, and Purity. These may be classed as

soteriological types, since they are decidedly immanental,

if not sacramental, and concentrate on the means of

redemption. They begin the process by which Ruskin brings

into the typology of nature the figurative resources and the

particular theological emphasis of the Christus Redemptor

tradition.

 

Of these three the type of Purity is the most fertile

for the development of Ruskin's theory of nature, and

Moderation and Unity can be said to accompany it.

Moderation is the type most specifically associated with

color, since the modality of color, as between "red" and the

beauty of the "rose-color," indicates the solemnity of quiet

gradations, the scale of intensity by which the beautiful in

nature is measured (4: 140). Already here color has become

so much more than an "accidental" attribute, for it connects

that which it clothes, in "holy reference," to the deepest

truths of nature: ". . . and so of all colors, . . . there

is a solemn moderation even in their very fulness, and a

holy reference, beyond and out of their own nature, to great

harmonies by which they are governed" (4: 140). This

referentiality, "beyond and out," to the "rose-colour" and

the governing harmonies, suggests that Moderation is a type

of mediation, a conduit, a binding together of sacred and

secular worlds. It becomes for Ruskin the "girdle and

safeguard" of all the types (4: 139), providing, not least,

the connection in the type of Unity between the collegia

pietatis, what Ruskin calls the "co-working and army

fellowship" of Evangelical community, and the "necessity of

divine essence" (4: 92-93). Unity is typical of this

essence to the degree that it participates in the

"Comprehensiveness" in and of Christ. For Ruskin, quoting

John 17: 21, Unity is the most Johannine of the six major

types, since Christ's own expression of the "great

harmonies" by which creation is governed was the prayer that

"'all may be one, as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in

Thee'" (4: 92).

 

The presence of such comprehension in the immanental

types drives Purity forward, away from the locus of meanings

that we might expect it to have in Ruskin's theoretic

program. In a remarkable development of his exegesis, he

disengages Purity from its conventional association with

cleanness or with the pureness of moral character. These

attributes are, in fact, only "metaphorical," and not

typical, for Purity is not "a type of sinlessness" (4: 131).

Ruskin does not deny that the association of Purity with

what is sinless and righteous is a frequent point of holy

scripture, but here he must correct this Biblical usage with

the greater and sustaining usage of nature. The aptness of

such correction is carried by the principle of typical

reserve, for, as Fairbairn notes, "nothing is to be regarded

as typical, which is of an improper and sinful nature." [n.7]

Since no idea of sin can be formed of God, Ruskin argues, it

is not possible for "sacred characters" (4: 144) to bear a

typical relation to that idea, either as sinful or as

sinless (4: 132). By this argument of almost scholastic

tenor, Ruskin frees Purity from old associations, and, in

doing so, opens the way forward to the typology of color.

 

In addition, of all the types, Purity is the least

subject to figurative dissimilitude. As a type of light, an

incarnate luminosity, it resists the inveterate darkening of

the other figures by the misprision of all natural forms and

mortal life. Ruskin reminds us in the concluding chapter of

his discussion of the types, "General Inferences Respecting

Typical Beauty," that between his reading and the invested

signs in nature there falls the dissonance of the hierarchy:

we are divided by a "gulf of specific separation" from the

lower animals in creation, but so too are we separated from

those consummate orders above us that we would fully

understand. The inevitable consequence of such "gulfs" in

the economy of creation is the resistant differance--to

understand is to understand differently. Thus, even in the

midst of his great reading of "Nature-scripture," Ruskin

affirms only the likelihood of his interpretation, the

apparent mimesis between analogous systems. The typical

beauty in nature "seems a promise of a communion ultimately

deep, close, and conscious, with the Being whose darkened

manifestations we here feebly and unthinkingly delight in"

(4: 144-45). [n.8] "Types and shadows," by their very

character, participate in what is "incommunicable"; to

whatever extent they are, finally, merely "words belonging

to earth," they cannot express the "ineffable": "[F]or, of

things different from the visible, words appropriated to the

visible can convey no image" (4: 208). Ruskin's posing of

this problem, the essential crux of the hermeneutic of

natural types, does not yet reach the radical form it takes

later in his career, when he acknowledges the aporia that

haunts all figurative economies, "the curious reversal or

recoil of the meaning which attaches itself to nearly every

great myth" (19: 317). Even so, in Modern Painters, in the

very building of the theoretical structure that undergirds

all his work, he insists upon the friability of his figures,

which he understands as part of the hiddenness and

concealment that resists and changes all interpretative

endeavor.

 

Ruskin's response to this systemic dissonance is to

position Purity as the actual "sanctifying element" (7:

415), the presence of light as itself a "presence," "an

actual substance," rather than, like the other types, one of

the "modes of being" (4: 128). [n.9] In this way Ruskin gives to

it a particular efficacy; it is "the type of Energy," the

"energetic action" of life itself, the vitality of the

"living and energetic whole" (4: 129). Keying his final

definition of this type to Paul's words in Acts 17: 28,

Ruskin writes that Purity is "expressive of that constant

presence and energizing of the Deity in matter, through

which all things live and move, and have their being." [n.10]

This same passage returns nearly forty years later to

become, in Deucalion, Ruskin's affirmation of a sacred

energy in nature, a holy fire and "everlasting force" that

"glows, with a deeper strength than the sun's heat or the

stars' light, through all the forms of matter, to purify

them, to direct, and to save" (26: 360).

 

By now it should not surprise us that this redemptive

type of Purity, as "visible energy," is typified, not only

by the light of the world but also by the "'living' . . .

rock" (4: 132-33): the "stone which the builders refused"

that has become "the Headstone of the Corner" (4: 265), the

"living stone" (1 Pet. 2: 4), the "spiritual Rock" that

followed the wandering children of Israel, "and that Rock

was Christ" (1 Cor. 10: 4). Purity is an immanent force;

incarnate in the "'living'" rock, it is manifest as "visible

energy" in mountain glory, when, through the comprehension

of theoria, as in the sanctified imagination of Angelico,

"all nature becomes literally coleur de rose " (23: 260).

For this reason we find in translucency the "most lovely

objects in nature" (4: 130), not in the disembodiment of the

transparent, but in "sacred hue of human flesh," the blessed

"Carnation" (26: 184). The "wreaths of snow" of the Alpine

summits, the "white plumage" of swan or dove, possess the

"utmost possible sense of beauty" when they are seen "under

rose light" (4: 130), since the rose is only scarlet in

Moderation and Unity, the mediated transmission of a

passional presence, the "sanguine stain" of "the rose-colour

on snow at sunset" (35: 473-74). This type of Purity

energizes the distinction between the "natural" and the

"won" life, one that is best described in Hopkins' own

employment of the "sanctity of color" (6: 69), in notes he

made on the Spiritual Exercises. "Suppose," Hopkins writes,

God showed us a vision of the entire world, "first in a drop

of water, allowing everything to be seen in its native

colours." After this, we are given "the same in a drop of

Christ's blood," by which everything is "turned scarlet,"

even as it keeps "nevertheless mounted in the scarlet its

own colour too." [n.11]

 

Types conceal, and beclouded, as "Dark Figures," they

"seem to promise" a great and far-off consummation (4: 144),

a coming "face to face," but in the "sanctifying element" of

scarlet (7: 415), as "crystalline vermilion," there is

"unsearchableness without cloud or concealment," only an

"infinite unknown," without "any veil or interference

between us and it" (6: 103). This is the color of the

evening sky, the literal coleur de rose of the heavens, the

color of the purple and the crimson rain (Diaries I: 103),

the "falling fire of the rainbow" (25: 250) formed of "one

broad belt of paler rose" (2: 177), the scarlet "for whose

brightness there are no words" (34: 21), the scarlet of that

priesthood of all who see, who have been "loved by Christ,

and washed in His blood" (12: 537). The type of Purity can

be known in light and color because of all visible things it

is not hindered by our "earthly" and "imperfect knowledge,"

but is typical of "the redeemed life" (6: 103-04). A

soteriological type, pre-eminently, by its saving power, it

depends upon and participates in "the power of the Gospel,"

the good news, not simply of the "History of Christ in due

place," nor even the story alone of "how He died," but the

testimony of the whole of reality as alive in him:

. . . the showing of His risen presence in

granting the harvests and guiding the labour

of the year. All sun and rain, and length or

decline of days received from His hand; all

joy, and grief, and strength, or cessation of

labour, indulged or endured, as in His sight

and to His glory. (23: 414) [n.12]

Purity is, simply yet effectively, typus Christi.. Under its

rubric, and from this starting point in Modern Painters II,

Ruskin arranges the "sacred characters" (4: 144) of the

typology of Atonement.

 

Having succeeded in the second volume in his exposition

of the covenantal typology in nature, the two typologies of

heavenly hope and divine love, Ruskin felt confident of his

direction and of his own power in the work that lay ahead.

He announces that, "in the succeeding volume," his "task"

will be to examine and illustrate natural types "in every

division, in stones, mountains, waves, clouds, and all

organic bodies" (4: 142). But this program was never

carried out in the way here envisioned. First the Seven

Lamps of Architecture intervened, and then the long,

passionate affair with Venice, issuing in the three volumes

of Stones of Venice during the first years of the 1850's,

and then the turbulence, both private and public, of that

decade began to alter all of Ruskin's plans. Indeed, out of

the wreck of hope came the more hallowed imagination, the

dream-work of a mind made more profound through suffering.

As a result Ruskin's reading of nature was never organized

in a complete form; it takes place, instead, in a series of

dense, theoretic passages throughout the work of the next

fifteen years, from 1845 to 1860, and in key chapters, like

"Athena Keramitis" (1869) of Queen of the Air, of books from

his later career, particularly after 1874. It reaches

toward closure in the very closing pages of Modern Painters

V, but even there, amid the culminating energies of his

greatest work, Ruskin cannot complete it, cannot translate

the "ineffable" or overcome the "incommunicable" element (4:

208). The great typological structure of the second volume

is recalled only to be fractured under the pressure of

irresolvable dilemmas, becoming part lyrical and oracular

utterance on Ruskin's part, which begs for interpretation,

and part long footnote, which resists it.[n.13] The whole of

his enterprise, as Interpreter of nature's covenant, may be

said to come down to one sentence of the chapter, "The

Hesperid Aegle": "Colour is, therefore, in brief terms, the

type of love" (7: 419).

 

We now have access to a more complete exposition of

this critical sentence, since, in the context of this

discussion, several key elements of its meaning are already

apparent. Our understanding of Ruskin's interpretation of

nature as a "continual Gospel" (11: 184), that in the book

of the creatures, "Deus ipse notatur" (24: 302), and that it

is Christ's "risen presence" which empowers all things (23:

414), not least the potential "redeemed life" of humanity

(6: 104), enables us to grasp each of the three significant

terms of this sentence as related to the Christocentric

emphasis of Ruskin's theology. The "colour" is, as we have

noted, the "sacred chord of colour" (6: 69), the "great

chord of perfect colour: (5: 139), associated with the

Tabernacle of the Presence, the Shekinah of God's dwelling-

place, completed, antitypically, in the pleroma of Christ,

in the scarlet of his redemptive act of sacrifice upon the

cross. Hence, scarlet is the primary color of the great

chord, the color most typical of Christ, not only in its

register of mediation as the liminal color between darkness

and light, but also in its place in the rainbow, the Bible's

own natural type, given as sign of the covenant of grace.

 

The word "colour" here can be read as a metonymy for

"rainbow," for it is the typology of the rainbow that

sponsors these meanings, natural and theological. [n.14] As the

sign of the Noachic covenant after the deluge, the rainbow

serves as a perpetual token of God's promise of deliverance;

it is to mark "the everlasting covenant between God and

every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth"

(Gen. 9: 16). Ruskin writes that the rainbow "signifies

always mercy, the sparing of life" (7: 418). Yet the

metonymic sense of "colour" in the sentence for "rainbow" is

only partial, and the relationship between aspect and whole

is, in actual fact, reversed. Considering the body of

Ruskin's descriptions of natural phenomenon, the peculiar

scarlet cloud, the crimson bow, draws Ruskin's most fervent

attempts at commentary. It is the color scarlet, in

gradations of itself, that makes the rainbow a covenantal

sign, and not the simple, if potent homology between the

rainbow as natural (re)occurrence and its appearance in

scripture, where it is specially authorized. The rainbow is

only one aspect of the sacred color.

 

Color is the "type" of love in a complex of senses, but

principally because it participates in the typology of

nature, a figurative system integral to the canon-binding

figura of Biblical narrative. Its categorical identity as a

type, its operative typicality, should be clear from the

preceding discussions of Ruskin's great project of

typological exegesis. As part of the system of typical

meanings founded in Hebrews, this "type" is principally a

ritual or liturgical one, whose primary field of reference

is the Hebrew cultus, with its rituals of purgation,

sacrifice, and atonement.[n.15] Ruskin denotes the ritual

typicality of his central "type" by directing us to "the

mystical connection between life and love, set forth in that

Hebrew system of sacrificial religion" (7: 416). In this

typical application of the Levitical law, our "sins are

indeed to be washed away," by the antitype of the cultus and

its purging Israel of transgression and ritual defilement.

But Ruskin wishes to emphasize the Johannine understanding

of this washing as an act of "love" (Rev. 1: 5), not merely

as the "agony" of sacrifice (7: 417).

 

Further, the co-sign here, the rainbow of the color

chord, comprehends both an historical and prophetic

typology. The rainbow occurs as part of the history of the

Bible, of its literal narrative. Appearing above the

surviving remnant of humanity, it occurs at one particular

moment in time and so can be applied to the future as part

of temporal or historical continuity. At the same time, its

literal significance, what God himself says that it means,

as a "token of the covenant" (Gen. 9: 12), foreshadows the

"blood of the new testament" (Matt. 26: 28). In this

figuring of the covenant, the rainbow becomes a prophetic

type, as well. Thus, this "type" of love, envisioned as

scarlet cloud, with "hues scarcely traceable in the "one

broad belt of crimson" (35: 282), proves remarkably

inclusive; it operates on all three levels, as ritual,

historical, and prophetic type.

 

In this passage the scarlet color is specifically named

as a "type of love"; indeed, in one sense, it becomes a

name, so that "type of love" is not simply the ascription of

a typical meaning, but is, itself, a name--Love as the

unfamiliar Name.[n.16] In Modern Painters III Ruskin argues

that the human imagination ought to perceive, as part of its

legitimate and noble usefulness, "the cloud of witnesses in

heaven and earth," but even more than this, it ought "to

call up the scenes and facts in which we are commanded to

believe, and be present, as if in the body, at every

recorded event of the history of the Redeemer" (5: 72). We

have seen his own attempt to present such a history in the

chapter, "Imaginative Penetrative." The significance of

such imaginative acts is widened even further, if possible,

in "Byzantine Palaces" of the second volume of Stones of

Venice, where Ruskin, in treating the iconography of the

cross in Venetian civilization, insists upon the relevance

of this enduring sign to all of human life. The sun and the

moon are placed in conjunction with the cross "in order to

express the entire dependence of the heavens and the earth

upon the work of the Redemption," the "saving power" of the

cross "over the whole of creation" (10: 167). On this cross

the Atonement confirmed the shape of providence and revealed

"love" as the Redeemer's name, for he "loved us, and washed

us from our sins in his own blood" (Rev. 1: 5). Hence, the

sacrality of color exists, and the types bear witness of

"every recorded event" of the Redeemer, because of the

priority throughout creation of "the work of Redemption."

Neither color nor typicality possess their affective

modalities apart from this priority, and, in some final

sense, the color of this "love" and the figuring that

clusters around him depend upon his self-identity, his

"risen presence," for their reality. Although "love" is the

third term, then, of Ruskin's "brief terms," it is the one

that subsumes the others, as name and "saving power."

 

The further consequence of this priority is to enable

Ruskin to appropriate an entire range of types of Christ to

the Book of Nature. This appropriation inheres in the

structure of many of the theoretic passages that occur in

his work after Modern Painters II. We can see this in a

passage somewhat further along in "Byzantine Palaces," where

Ruskin wishes to collate the colors veiling the Tabernacle,

with Joseph's well-known "coat 'of many colors,' with the

rape of Tamar, and, finally, with the typicality of the

rainbow, that "heavenly circle which binds the statutes of

color upon the front of the sky" (10: 174-75). Such a

passage develops with tremendous speed, reliant, as it is,

upon the Ruskinian economy between the two books. But here,

however, the violation of the king's daughter, and her

subsequent humiliation by the tearing of her "garment of

divers colours" (2 Sam. 13: 19), ruptures any single

similitude between scripture and the rainbow in nature as a

"sign of the covenant of peace" (10: 174). Only when we

understand the rainbow as a "type of reconciliation" (10:

136), do we see that what unifies this reading is the record

of suffering, even of that "crimson from the blood which is

the life" of the body (10: 172). Tamar, as a virgin, is

rent, even as the veil of the Temple is "rent in twain from

the top to the bottom" (Matt. 28: 51) by the sheer force of

the Crucifixion, even as Joseph's coat, after he is betrayed

and sold into bondage in Egypt, is dipped into blood and

carried to his father as proof of his death.

 

A comprehensive review of all such typical moments in

Ruskin would be lengthy, indeed, but many such collations

and their ostensible typology, whether of peace,

deliverance, sanctity, or love, are bound, ultimately, by

the scarlet thread of the Atonement. There is, perhaps, no

more beautiful example of this "sanctifying element," this

typus crucis, than in "Mountain Glory" of Modern Painters

IV, in the concluding meditation on the death of Moses and

its antitype, the work of Christ through death. In a

remarkable doubling of his typical program, Ruskin provides

in this passage both a figural reading and a modeling of

theoretic sight, for Moses, himself a type, gazes upon two

natural types in the topography of Palestine. He sees,

first, the Dead Sea, and understands it as "a type of God's

anger," bereft of motion and the Living Spirit. But against

this emblem of wrath, there exists, figured in the

landscape, the type of Atonement which he reads in the

evening light:

[T]he Dead Sea . . . laid waveless beneath him;

and beyond it, the fair hills of Judah, and

the soft plains and banks of Jordan, purple in

the evening light as with the blood of

redemption, and fading in their distant fulness

into mysteries of promise and love. (6: 462)

This is, indeed, the "Promised Land," whose figures are the

very forms of nature, the hills and plains, and the light.

 

Over Jordan hangs the saving chord of color because in

the distance, near the site of what will become the holy

city, is one eminence, one hill of all the world where the

Word, by whom all things were made, will know itself in

"sacred hue of human flesh--Carnation;--incarnation" (26:

184). Ruskin writes that we must acknowledge the "human

life" of Christ, the "hungering" soul, "tired" and

"sorrowful," or else we stand in danger of losing "the

efficiency of His atonement" (6: 463). "Nothing but love

can read the letters" (4: 191), the "sacred characters" (4:

144) of this intersection of "Divinity" and "Humanity" (6:

463). Hence it is Moses who sees here with theoretic sight,

for he will participate mystically, as the figure of his own

anagogue, in the Transfiguration of Christ, reappearing

beside him on the mount amid the "snow-like" radiance and

the shining "Light of His Mercy" (6: 466; Matt 17: 1-8).

From Pisgah Moses reads the meaning of mountain glory, and

imagines the energy of Christ shaping the creation.

Preparing the way, it is the "right hand of Christ" who

"first strewed the snow on Lebanon, and smoothed the slopes

of Calvary" (6: 117).

 

In a complexity of time, Moses foresees the antitypical

landscape of Christ's own saving and redemptive act, which

already completes what Moses has begun and must leave, in

his imminent dying, incomplete. He gazes upon the place and

time, in history, where this act of history will come to

pass. In this reading of the figures of landscape, Moses

sees the "Promised Land" as already transmuted to the points

of narrative, the clustering and memorial geography of

scripture, and registers the polysemy of Bethlehem, Galilee,

Calvary. From the Crucifixion in Jerusalem, near Jordan's

banks, history stretches forward into the "fading" and

"distant fulness" of the future, "the mysteries of promise

and love" in which time itself may be redeemed. Moses sees

the Christ-time, but he also sees--and in this the passage

reaches toward Ruskin's own time, and the time of Ruskin's

readers--how the Christ-time is itself typical, anew, of the

end-time, because in the death upon the cross is born the

afterlife of history.

 

 

Notes to the Conclusion:

 

1. This sentence is from a draft passage; see Cook's

note (4: 114).

 

2. BE, 2 (Sermon 45), p. 198.

 

3. Law, Serious Call, p. 8.

 

4. Frei, Eclipse of Biblical Narrative, p. 153.

 

5. See, in Hebrews, the discussion of the old and new

covenants (chaps. 8 and 9), and note, especially: "For when

Moses had spoken every precept to all the people according

to the law, he took the blood of calves and of goats, with

water, and scarlet wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled both the

book, and all the people" (Heb. 9: 19). See, also, the

network of passages in the Old Testament upon which this

typology depends, including Exodus 12 for the first Passover

(Ex. 12: 22 for hyssop); Exodus 24: 6-8; Leviticus 14: 4-6;

Leviticus, chaps. 16-17: 11, and 23: 23-32 for the great Day

of Atonement; Numbers 19: 1-10 for the ritual sacrifice of

the "red cow without blemish" (Num. 19: 6 for hyssop);

Psalms 51: 7. Compare John 19: 36-37 (with Exodus 12: 46

and Psalm 34: 20) and 1 Corinthians 5: 7. And see chapter

two above, and the central series of Ruskin's sermons, from

the Coniston Notebook, 10. "The law of sacrifice," 11.

"Sacrifices of the old law," 12. "Sacrificial ceremonies,"

and from Notebook IV, 13. "The annual atonement." There is

perhaps no more comprehensive meditation upon this nexus of

sacred meanings in all of Ruskin than the Christmas Day

portion (1876) of the great Letter 74, "Father-Law," of Fors

Clavigera, sections #3-4 (29: 32).

 

6. For substantial parts of such a history, see the

following essays in The Ruskin Polygon : Hunt's "Oeuvre and

footnote," pp. 13-16; George L. Hersey, "Ruskin as an

optical thinker," pp. 44-64; Stephen Bann, "The colour in

the text: Ruskin's basket of strawberries," pp. 122-36;

William Arrowsmith's marvelous study of "Ruskin's

fireflies," pp. 198-235; and the comments on these in my

"Hunting Ruskin," pp. 50-51.

 

7. See Fairbairn, Typology of Scripture, p. 68f.

 

8. McGowan's comments on this passage are astute and

helpful ("Ruskin's Mysterious Clouds," pp. 83, 89).

 

9. There has been little commentary on the six major

types, but the importance of this tangible Purity has been

noted; see Sherburne, Ambiguities of Abundance, pp. 5-6; and

Wihl, Rhetoric of Infallibility, pp. 44-45, 65-71.

 

10. First ed., p. 74 (4: 133); MP II, p. 312; and see

4: 397.

 

11. The Sermons and Devotional Writings of Gerard

Manley Hopkins, ed. Christopher Devlin, S. J., (Oxford:

Oxford University Press, 1959), p. 194. And see James Finn

Cotter, "'Hornlight Wound to the West': The Inscape of the

Passion in Hopkins' Poetry," Victorian Poetry, 16 (Winter

1978), pp. 297-313; Alison G. Sulloway, "'Heaven's Sweet

Gift': Hopkins, Ruskin, and the Plentitude of God," in her

Gerard Manley Hopkins and the Victorian Temper (London:

Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1972), pp. 64-114, here 79-90; and

Gerald L. Bruns, "Energy and Interpretation in Hopkins," in

Inventions (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1982), pp.

125-42.

 

12. The context of this passage, in "The Shepherd's

Tower" of Mornings in Florence, is praise for Giotto's

expression of the gospel in his art and architecture.

 

13. The closing chapters of Modern Painters V,

Ruskin's central text, the great allegorical meditations

upon Turner's Garden of the Hesperides and Apollo and Python

have drawn much comment. See Hunt, "Oeuvre and footnote,"

p. 13-15; and Helsinger, Art of the Beholder, pp. 234-67,

293-98. Other significant readings of these chapters

include Landow, Aesthetic and Critical Theories, pp. 420-32;

Fitch, "The Assumption of the Dragon," Poison Sky, pp. 386-

426; Sawyer, Poetic Argument, pp. 188-93; Bann, "The colour

in the text," pp. 125-29; and Downes, Landscape of

Beatitude, pp. 82-85, 225.

 

14. Ruskin writes further on in a note that "the very

sign in heaven itself . . . , truly understood, is the type

of love" (7: 438). Two studies by Landow are pertinent

here: Victorian Types, pp. 111-14; and "The Rainbow: A

Problematic Image," in Nature and the Victorian Imagination,

pp. 341-68, esp. 345.

 

15. But note Charity's convincing argument for the

powerful historical element of the cultus, and the prophetic

contemporization of foundational events that operated in its

ritual, in his discussion of "Man and History," Events and

their Afterlife, pp. 44-51. And see n. 5 above.

 

16. Twice in his long footnote to color Ruskin resorts

to this capitalization, "the type of Love" (7: 417).