No human being, however great or powerful, was ever so free as a fish

” No human being, however great or powerful, was ever so free as a fish”
– John Ruskin

The full context can be found here: https://biblehub.com/sermons/auth/ruskin/liberty_and_restraint.htm

Romans 6:19-20
I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh…


You hear every day greater numbers of foolish people speaking about liberty, as if it were such an honourable thing; so far from being that, it is, on the whole, and in the broadest sense, dishonourable, and an attribute of the lower creatures. No human being, however great or powerful, was ever so free as a fish. There is always something that he must or must not do; while the fish may do whatever he likes. All the kingdoms of the world put together are not half so large as the sea, and all the railroads and wheels that ever were or will be invented, are not so easy as fins. You will find, on fairly thinking of it, that it is his restraint which is honourable to man, not his liberty; and, what is more, it is restraint which is honourable even in the lower animals. A butterfly is more free than a bee, but you honour the bee more just because it is subject to certain laws which fit it for orderly function in bee society. And throughout the world, of the two abstract things, liberty and restraint, restraint is always the more honourable. It is true, indeed, that in these and all other matters you never can reason finally from the abstraction, for both liberty and restraint are good when they are nobly chosen, and both are bad when they are badly chosen; but of the two, I repeat, it is restraint which characterises the higher creature, and betters the lower creature; and from the ministering of the archangel to the labour of the insect, from the poising of the planets to the gravitation of a grain of dust — the power and glory of all creatures and all matter consist in their obedience, not in their freedom. The sun has no liberty, a dead leaf has much. The dust of which you are formed has no liberty. Its liberty will come — with its corruption.

(J. Ruskin.)

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