Sunday, November 14, 2010

Bring out the significance of the title of the Crown of Wild Olive.

Ruskin was in the habit of choosing queer and fantastic titles for his works. Very often his titles are expressed in Latin. For example, Aratra Pentelici meaning, ‘the Quarrying of Pentalicus’ is the title given to a book containing six lectures on sculpture. Munera Pulveris is the title of another of his books, which takes a phrase from an ode of Horace for its motto : ‘Dust Offerings’, which means a handful of dust offerred to a dead body so that the dead might sleep peacefully in the grave. Similarly, Fors Clavigere means ‘Fate that holds the key’ and Praeterita means ‘Things Past’.

But The Crown of Wild Olive has nothing to do with Latin, but it concerns much with Greek We. The wild olive was the prize of the victor in the Olympic games in Greece and in the Ruskinian cryptogram it means ‘the crown of consummate honour and of rest’. In fact, the title ‘Crown of Wild Olive’ treats of the ideal work of (i) the workman, (ii) the merchant, (iii) the soldier, and the reward he is to expect for such ideal work, which will be a crown of wild olive. Ruskin speaks about it in the last paragraph of his introduction to the Greek view of life :
“No proud one ! no jewelled circlet flaming through Heaven above the height of the unmerited throne ; only some few leaves of wild olive, cool to the tired brow, through a few years of peace…… Not in war, not in wealth, not in tyranny, was there any happiness to be found for them—only in kindly peace, fruitful and free. The wreath was to be of wild olive, mark you……, But this, such as
it is, you may win while yet you live.”
This, according to Ruskin, was to be the reward which the workman, the merchant and the soldier would win in the race of life. This reward, the wild olive of honour and rest means, (i) free-hearted­ness, (ii) graciousness, (iii) undisturbed trust, (iv) requited love, (v) the sight of peace of others, and (vi) the ministry to their pain. Besides these spiritual consolations, Ruskin offers the only, material reward to his workman, merchant and soldier, that of (i) the blue sky above, and (ii) the sweet waters and flowers of the earth.
These are the rewards which Ruskin offers to the winner in the contest of life. The contest—agorae in Greek—reminds him of the Greek view of life and the Greek crown of contest in the Olympic and other contests1 being generally the ‘crown’ or ‘wreath’ of the leaves of the wild olive is chosen to body forth in concrete ,form the spiritual consolations, Ruskin offers to the ideal workman, merchant or soldier.
Ruskin refers to the Crown of Wild Olive in his other works also. In The Queen of the Air, he discourses that alive “has triple signi­ficance in symbolism, for the use of its oil for sacred anointing, for strength in the gymnasium, and for light. Hence in numberless divided and reflected ways, it is connected with the power of Hercules and Athena ; Hercules plants the Wild Olive, for its shade on the course of Olympia, and it thence-forward gives the Olympic crown of consumenate honour and rest; while the prize at the Panathenaic games is a vase of its oil (meaning encouragement to continuance of effort) ; and from the paintings on these Panathenaic vases we get the most precious clue to the entire character of Athena.”
In this connection it should be remembered that Athena gave to the people of Athens, the olive plant as her special gift. The Panathenaic games above referred to by Ruskin, were the greatest and most splendid of the festivals celebrated in Athica in honour of Athena, as the protectress of the City.
Thus the title of the work, The Crown of Wild Olive is significant as well as meaningful.

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