Wednesday, 22 April 2009


Ruskin claimed 'mountains are the beginning and the end of all natural scenery.' For this to be more than mere personal hyperbole (as it might be: 'ooh, I like mountains a lot...') there would have to be some sense in which mountain ranges actually embody, rather than merely superficially resembled, sublime eructions into the natural world. Life begins in the valley; death buries its corpses in little miniature imitation valleys. 'Natural scenery' is a concept in human beings' heads, not a meaningful category of landscape.

Put it another way: if you are in the mountains, looking down like Hitler in his eyrie (like Tennyson's Eagle) and actually find yourself thinking: 'this is truly the perspective of the beginning and the end of all ...' then you need to get yourself down out of the mountains double-quick and douse your brain in the spring of quotidian life.

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