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Modern Painters, Volume 4 (of 5)
written by "Ruskin, John, 1819-1900"
...s it ascends towards B; and hence one of the most beautifully gradated natural curves—called the catenary—of course assumed not by chains only, but 270 by all flexible and elongated substances, suspended between two points. If the points of suspension be near each other, we have such curves as at D; and if, as in nine cases out of ten will be the case, one point of suspension is lower than the other, a still more varied and beautiful curve is formed, as at E. Such curves constitute nearly the whole beauty of general contour in falling drapery, tendrils and festoons of weeds over rocks, and such other pendent objects.89 13. Again. If any object be cast into the air, the force with which it is cast dies gradually away, and its own weight brings it downwards; at first slowly, then faster and faster every moment, in a curve which, as the line of fall necessarily nears the perpendicular, is continually approximating to a straight line. This curve—called the parabola—is that of all projected or bounding objects. 14. Again. If a rod or stick of any kind gradually becomes more slender or more flexible, and is bent by any external 271 force, the force will not only increase in effect as the rod becomes weaker, but the rod itself, once bent, will continually yield more willingly, and be more easily bent farther in the same direction, and will thus show a continual increase of curvature from its thickest or most rigid part to its extremity. This kind of line is that assumed by boughs of trees under wind. 15. Again. Whenever any vital force is impressed on any organic substance, so as to die gradually away as the substance extends, an infinite curve is commonly produced by its outline. Thus, in the budding of the leaf, already examined, the gradual dying away of the exhilaration of the younger ribs produces an infinite curve in the outline of the leaf, which sometimes fades imperceptibly into a right line,&m...

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