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LETTER 84

THE LAST WORDS OF THE VIRGIN

“ THEY HAVE NO wine."
“WHATSOEVER HE SAITH UNTO You, do it.”

BRANTWOOD, 29th Oct., 1877. 1. THESE, the last recorded words of the Mother of Christ, and the only ones recorded during the period of His ministry (the “desiring to see thee”? being told Him by a stranger's lips), I will take, with due pardon asked of faithful Protestant readers, for the motto, since they are the sum, of all that I have been permitted to speak, in God's name, now these seven years.*

The first sentence of these two, contains the appeal of the workman's wife, to her son, for the help of the poor of all the earth.

The second, the command of the Lord's mother, to the people of all the earth, that they should serve the Lord.

2. This day last year, I was walking with a dear friend, and resting long, laid on the dry leaves, in the sunset, under the vineyard-trellises of the little range of hills which, five miles west of Verona, look down on the Lago di Garda at about the distance from its shore that Cana is from the Lake of Galilee ;—(the Madonna had walked to the bridal some four miles and a half). It was a Sunday evening, golden and calm ; all the vine leaves quiet; and the soft clouds held at pause in the west, round the mountains that

(John ii. 3, 5.] 2 Luke viii. 20.) 3 (Since the commencement of Fors.]

• (Perhaps Mr. C. H. Moore (for whom, see Vol. XXIV. p. xli.), as on the envelope containing the MS. of this Letter Ruskin wrote, "MS. of last Fors Clavigera of the seven years, kept for Mr. C. Moore."]

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Virgil knew so well, blue above the level reeds of Mincio. But we had to get under the crest of the hill, and lie down under cover, as if avoiding an enemy's fire, to get out of hearing of the discordant practice in fanfaronade, of the military recruits of the village,-modern Italy, under the teaching of the Marsyas? of Mincio, delighting herself on the Lord's day in that, doubtless, much civilized, but far from mellifluous, manner; triumphing that her monasteries were now for the most part turned into barracks, and her chapels into stables. We, for our own part, in no wise exultant nor exhilarated, but shrinking down under the shelter of the hill, and shadows of its fruitful roofs, talked, as the sun went down.

3. We talked of the aspect of the village which had sent out its active life, marching to these new melodies ; and whose declining life we had seen as we drove through it, half-an-hour before. An old, far-straggling village, its main street following the brow of the hill, with gardens at the backs of the houses, looking towards the sacred mountains and the uncounted towers of purple Verona.

If ever peace, and joy, and sweet life on earth might be possible for men, it is so here, and in such places,-few, on the wide earth, but many in the bosom of infinitely blessed, infinitely desolate Italy. Its people were sitting at their doors, quietly working--the women at least,--the old men at rest behind them. A worthy and gentle race; but utterly poor, utterly untaught the things that in this world make for their peace. Taught anciently, other things, by the steel of Ezzelin ;4 taught anew the same lesson, by the victor of Arcola, and the vanquished of Solferino,—and the supreme evil risen on the ruin of both.

There they sate--the true race of Northern Italy, mere

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[Compare Vol. XXIV. p. 456 and n.] : (See above, p. 271.) a 'See Romans xiv. 19.] • See Vol. XXVII. p. 241.]

• [For Napoleon's victory at Arcola (1796), see Vol. XVI. p. 67 n.; for another mention of the defeat of the Austrians at Solferino (1859), Vol. XXVII. p. 320.]

prey for the vulture,-patient, silent, hopeless, careless : infinitude of accustomed and bewildered sorrow written in every line of their faces, unnerving every motion of their hands, slackening the spring in all their limbs. And their blood has been poured out like water, age after age, and risen round the wine-press, even to the horse-bridles. And of the peace on earth, and the goodwill towards men, which He who trod the wine-press alone, and of the people there was none with Him :—died to bring them, they have heard by the hearing of the ear,—their eyes have not seen.

"They have no wine.”

4. But He Himself has been always with them," though they saw Him not, and they have had the deepest of His blessings. “Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.”And in the faith of these, and such as these,—in the voiceless religion and uncomplaining duty of the peasant races, throughout Europe,- is now that Church on earth, against which the gates of Hell shall not prevail. And on the part taken in ministry to them, or in oppressing them, depends now the judgment between the righteous and the wicked servant, which the Lord, who has so long delayed His coming, will assuredly now, at no far-off time, require.

“But and if that servant shall say in his heart, .My Lord delayeth His coming'

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Shall I go on writing ?–We have all read the passage so often that it falls on our thoughts unfelt, as if its words were dead leaves. We will write and read it more slowly to-day—so please you.

5. “Who then is a faithful and wise servant whom his

1 (See Revelation xiv. 20.]

Luke ii. 14.] : 'Isaiah lxiii. 3.] • See Matthew xxviii. 20.] s John xx. 29.] • Compare Matthew xvi. 18.]

(See Matthew xxiv. 48, though Ruskin here gives St. Luke's version (xii. 45). I

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Lord hath made ruler over His household, to give them their meat in due season?”

Over His household,He probably having His eyes upon it, then, whether you have or not. But He has made you ruler over it, that you may give it meat, in due season. Meat-literally, first of all. And that seasonably, according to laws of duty, and not of chance. You are not to leave such giving to chance, still less to take advantage of chance, and buy the meat when meat is cheap, that you may "in due season

sell it when meat is dear. You don't see that in the parable? No, you cannot find it.

No, you cannot find it. 'Tis not in the bond. You will find something else is not in the bond too, presently.

But at least this is plain enough, that you are to give meat when it is due. “Yes, spiritual meat—but not mutton”? Well, then-dine first on spiritual meat yourself. Whatever is on your own table, be it spiritual or fleshly, of that you are to distribute; and are made a ruler that you may distribute, and not live only to consume. You say I don't speak plain English, and you don't understand what I mean. It doesn't matter what I mean,--but if Christ hasn't put that plain enough for you—you had better go learn to read.

6. “Blessed is that servant whom his Lord, when He cometh, shall find so doing. Verily I say unto you, that He shall make him ruler over all His goods.

A vague hope, you think, to act upon ? Well, if you only act on such hope, you will never either know, or get, what it means.

No one but Christ can tell what all His
goods are ; and you have no business to mind, yet ; for it
is not the getting of these, but the doing His work, that
you must care for yet awhile. Nevertheless, at spare times,
it is no harm that you wonder a little where He has gone
to, and what He is doing; and He has given you at least
some hint of that, in another place.
“Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning,

1 (Matthew xxiv. 45.]
: (Merchant of Venice, Act iv. sc. 1.]
* (Matthew xxiv. 46, 47.]

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and ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their Lord,
when He shall return from the wedding.”i Nor a hint of
it merely, but you may even hear, at quiet times, some
murmur and syllabling of its music in the distance—“ The
Spirit, and the Bride, say, Come.” 2
7.

“But and if that evil servant shall say in his heart, My Lord delayeth His coming,' and shall begin to smite his fellow-servants, and to eat and drink with the drunken

To “smite”—too fine a word: it is, quite simply, to “strike”—that same verb which every Eton boy used to have (and mercifully) smitten into him.-You smite nobody now_boy or man—for their good, and spare the rod of correction. But you smite unto death with a will. What is the ram of an ironclad for?

6. To eat and drink with the drunken.” Not drunk himself—the upper servant; too well bred, he; but countenancing the drink that does not overcome him,—a goodly public tapster; charging also the poor twenty-two shillings for half-a-crown's worth of the drink he draws for them ; 4 boasting also of the prosperity of the house under his management. So many bottles, at least, his chief butlerhood can show emptied out of his Lord's cellar,—“and shall be exalted to honour, and for ever give the cup into Pharaoh's hand," he thinks. Not lascivious, he, but frank in fellowship with all lasciviousness--a goodly speaker after Manchester Banquet,* and cautious not to add, personally, drunkenness to Thirlmere thirst.?

* Compare description in Fors, October, 1871,8 of the “Entire Clerkly or Learned Company,” and the passage in Munera Pulveris there referred to [$ 159]. 1 [Luke xii. 35, 36.]

* [Revelation xxii. 17.] : Matthew xxiv. 48, 49.]

[For other references to this calculation (in which Ruskin states the augmentation of price somewhat differently in different places), see Vol. XXVII. p. 498 ; Vol. XXVIII. p. 644; and above, p. 22.]

6 [Compare Letter 12, § 24 (Vol. XXVII. p. 215).] 6 See Genesis xl.]

? (For the Manchester banquet, see above, p. 274 n. For other references to the Manchester Corporation's waterworks at Thirlmere, see Vol. XIII, p. 517 n. ; Vol. XXII. p. 531 ; and in this volume, pp. 162, 224, 346, 374.]

. [Letter 10, § 13 (Vol. XXVII. p. 174).]

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