Composition and Publication
Selections were first published in Poems (4o, 1891)
Poems (8o, 1891)
, 1:42-48; and
, 2:286-315. The entirety was first published as
edited by James S. Dearden from a transcript of the MS V and MS VII versions of the poem, which had been prepared at the behest of the editors of the
The surviving physical evidence accords with Ruskin's inscription in MS VII that he started composition on 28 November 1830. As Dearden remarks in his edition of the poem
(, 23), Ruskin began composition with what became book 3,
the 410-line “Ascent of Skiddaw,” which he fair-copied in MS V and there dated 26 December 1830.
Another early dateable reference to “The Ascent of Skiddaw” occurs in MS VI about late December 1830.
The mention is found in Ruskin's handmade index to MS VI and presumably refers to the poem's draft in that notebook,
but the draft text is lost since the first half of the notebook was torn away (see MS VI: Description; and for dating of index entries, Contents and Discusssion).
Ruskin drafted most of the poem in MS VI, a notebook devoted exclusively to rough draft and no fair copy,
with a small part of book 4 composed in the other major rough-draft notebook, MS VIII.
Ruskin's index to MS VI gives the identical page number for both the entry “Skiddaw” and the entry “Iteriad,”
suggesting that he may have conceived of “Iteriad” only after completing “Skiddaw” and as an expansion of the shorter poem.
His index also reveals that this draft followed a piece called “Revolution,” now lost.
The composition can be traced with precision as Ruskin gleefully reports to his father on the number of lines he has composed,
toting up the farthings he will earn as payment, as John James Ruskin had agreed:
“as fast as I load you with mountain after mountain heaped gigantic I shall lighten you of your money Hurra Forty lines per day regularly as the sun goes down”
(21 February 1831, in Burd, ed., Ruskin Family Letters
By 28 February 1831, Ruskin's mother says “he has already composed six hundred and thirty two lines not including the ascent of Skiddaw which he has finished
it has 416” (RFL, 225). Since the draft of book 1 in MS VI contains 518 lines, the same as the fair copy, Margaret's count indicates that, by 28 February, John must have reached
line 114 of book 2. (Burd remarks a discrepancy between Margaret’s count of the “Ascent” and book 3 of “Iteriad,”
which he says contains 410 lines in MS VII [RFL, 226 n. 5]. Confusing the issue further, Dearden’s edition numbers 402 for book 3.)
By 6 March, Ruskin says he is “in the fourth hundred of the second book cantering away to Barrowdale [i.e., Borrowdale] and Bowder stone and Buttermere” (RFL 233).
If he had in fact reached line 114 by the end of 28 February, 400 lines of book 2 by 6 March would put him about 40-50 lines ahead of his scheduled 40 lines per day
(or, if when writing on 28 February, Margaret had not counted that day’s production, he is precisely on schedule).
Ruskin’s line-count of 6 March corresponds to draft that starts the extant portion of MS VI--namely, pp. 58-74, MS VI, which begins with line 176, book 1,
and carries straight through to precisely line 400 of book 2 (see also no. 109, and part 1, MS VI). In this draft, Ruskin supplied marginal line numbers
with every fifth line, and these lines correspond exactly to the numbered lines in Dearden’s edition
(based on Cook and Wedderburn’s transcript of the fair copies MSS V, VII).
Thus, with effortless facility, Ruskin drafted his couplets in the form and order they would appear in fair copy,
with little appreciable revision, except for occasional changes in wording.
After 6 March, Ruskin’s “cantering” through draft is slowed to a halting walk. The draft in MS VI (pp. 58-74) carried through line 400, book 2,
by about 6 March, is followed immediately (pp. 75-76) by nos. 109-10, known to have been composed 11-12 March 1831.
These poems are succeeded (p. 76) by lines 401-26, book 2, entitled by Ruskin “Continuation of second book of the Iteriad.”
This passage, therefore, was composed after 12 March. The upper limiting date of the passage is 21 March, since it is followed (pp. 77-78) by no. 111,
to which Ruskin refers in a letter of that date, and by no. 113, which is dated “21st March 1831” in the manuscript (pp. 78, 81).
Book 2 is resumed (and headed “Iteriad”) with lines 427-538 on pp. 82-84 of MS VI; three-quarters of the way through this passage, following line 504 (p. 83),
Ruskin squeezed a date into the inner margin, “(22nd April 1831),” and lines 505ff. resume with a different pen.
Thus, the month since the previous installment (lines 401-26, composed between 12 and 21 March) had been devoted only to lines 427-504,
along with the briefer poems that appear on the intervening pp. 77-81, nos. 111-16
(although the dating of nos. 114-15 is somewhat doubtful). Lines 505-38, which continue immediately after Ruskin’s April 22 notation,
were probably finished before the end of the month, since these lines precede draft (pp. 84-85) of no. 117, a birthday ode for John James,
which Ruskin would have been preparing for 10 May 1831 presentation.
Following the birthday ode, no. 117 that ends on on p. 85, Ruskin tore away two folios (pp. 86-89).
Since at least one of these missing folios, as can be inferred from the index to MS VI, probably contained draft of “Iteriad”
(see MS VI, “Description”), at least some of those lines may have belonged to the subsequent portion of book 2 as fair-copied--lines 539-658,
which are nowhere else extant in draft. (Not all of this passage is likely to have fit on one missing folio, however,
since only about 45 lines per page is typical for “Iteriad” in MS VI. Of course, this draft passage could have been expanded in some other draft manuscript, now lost,
prior to fair-copying.) These missing draft lines would have been composed, therefore, either just before John James’s 10 May birthday
or sometime after that celebration. If composed after May 10, the family may by that time have been embarked on their May-June journey of 1831
to the south and west of England and Wales. The lines could even have been delayed until the Ruskins returned from the holiday.
The concluding lines of book 2, 659-94 occur earlier in MS VI, raising the possibility that Ruskin wrote them out of sequence;
they are not numbered by Ruskin, possibly because he had not yet composed the lines leading up to them.
However, judging by their appearance in draft, I suspect the concluding lines were in fact composed in sequence
but squeezed into available blank spaces remaining in the earlier section of the manuscript. The first such group of concluding lines (lines 659-67)
is entitled by Ruskin “Conclusion of Book 2 Iteriad” and fills a brief space between nos. 114 and 115 on p. 79;
it is written in an ink darker than the surrounding poems. The next passage, lines 668-83, falls at the end of p. 80, following the first five-line fragment of no. 116.
The final lines, 684-94, are written (again in the darker ink) along the very bottoms of pp. 81, 82, and 83,
beneath a heavy rule drawn across the lower margins of those pages. Were these concluding passages to be dated strictly by their sequential position,
they would have been composed about 21 March into April; more likely, they were composed after mid-May, at the earliest.
Book 3 having already been composed, Ruskin moved from book 2 to book 4. The two missing folios (pp. 86-89), which probably held draft of 2:539-658
or a portion of those lines, may also have held 4:1-26, or some portion of that opening. It is just as likely, however, that book 4 was begun on some other manuscript,
now lost. The first extant draft of book 4, labeled by Ruskin “Iteriad Book 4th,” begins in MS VI with line 27 and goes through 68,
according to Ruskin’s own line numbering. This passage begins on p. 88 (according to Ruskin’s revised numbering system for MS VI; see MS VI, “Description”).
Interrupted by the revision of no. 73, another segment (labeled “Iteriad Book 4th”) takes up lines 69-94 (p. 89). According to Dearden (ed., Iteriad, p. 23),
Ruskin would have started on book 4 in July, following the May-June Welsh tour. It cannot be ascertained definitely whether this draft was begun during or following the tour;
however, Dearden is probably correct, since the first extant lines of book 4 (lines 27-68) follow nos. 128-29,
which can be assigned tentatively to early August.
Following 4:94 at the bottom of p. 89, another folio has been removed; but a remaining torn stub shows Ruskin’s marginal line number 95,
revealing that the draft continued onto that missing page (which also held the lost no. 130). Hereafter, the composition of book 4
in MS VI becomes complex. Having torn away the folio with line 95, Ruskin numbered the next extant folio in proper sequence, i.e., p. 90.
The missing folio may have contained only five lines of book 4, lines 95-100, since lines 101-261 appear continuously on pp. 92-96
(or the missing folio may have contained the five lines plus some discarded version of lines 101ff.). The segment 101-261 is interrupted on p. 96 by no. 133,
and followed by the single line 262 at the top of the next page (p. 97). After another interruption by nos. 134 and 136 (p. 97), lines 263ff. start at the top of p. 98
(headed “Iteriad”). For the first time, Ruskin’s line numbering becomes faulty, since what should be (and eventually did become) line 263 is called in draft line 248;
and this continues until what would become line 296 (here, 281). A simple explanation to this discrepancy can be found by looking back two pages to the bottom of p. 95,
which ends with line 246--lines 247-61 being continued at the top of the next page, p. 96, before the draft of “Bed” (no. 133).
When numbering the lines, Ruskin must have overlooked the lines 247-61 at the top of p. 96, and counted from line 246 at the bottom of p. 95, to the single line at the top of p. 97,
and thus to the miscounted line “248” at the top of p. 98. (Another possibility is that lines 247-61 were inserted later, but the single line at the top of p. 97 could not have been composed
without those lines first being in existence, since it rhymes with line 261.) Later, when he reaches line 585 of the book 4 draft (p. 103, line 592 as presently numbered),
Ruskin abruptly corrects this number to 600, very likely accounting for the dropped fifteen lines 247-61. He may have discovered the error while fair-copying;
if so, the correction tells us that fair-copying had begun, and was keeping good pace with the composition--lagging only about 300 lines behind.
Note that Ruskin’s corrected numbering still does not correspond with the present, fair-copy numbering;
the difference is probably to be accounted for by an extra eight lines in MS VI--falling at points roughly between lines 320 and 350 of book 4 in the fair-copy numbering--that
are deleted in pencil. When these lines were omitted in fair-copying, the draft numbering would have come back into sync with the fair copy numbering.
Since Ruskin’s numbering in draft was not further corrected by the end of the poem--which ends at line 704, instead of 696 as presently numbered--his fair-copying,
if indeed started by now, must have lapsed during the composition of the second half of book 4.)
In the misnumbered passage on p. 98, several lines (i.e., those called here 262-69 and 272-81; and, in fair copy, 277-84 and 287-96) are cited only by their first words,
no doubt a shorthand for the for the full lines, elsewhere. Ruskin must now be drafting “Iteriad” in another manuscript, as well as in MS VI.
Indeed, after line 281 (i.e., line 296 in fair copy), Ruskin directs himself to pick up “From line 281 to line 305 in new Manuscript.”
These lines in the “new Manuscript” would have been 4:297-320, according to fair-copy numbering, and these lines are in fact to be found early in MS VIII, p. 3.
MS VIII, then, according to the approximate pace of “Iteriad,” was first put to use in about September, and this estimate accords with other evidence dating that manuscript
(see MS VIII). Finally, rounding out p. 98 in MS VI, what would become 4:321-26 in fair copy (called lines 306-13 here) is drafted at the bottom of the page,
following the directive to the “new Manuscript.”
The next two pages in MS VI (99-100r) continue the draft of 4:327-82 (here called 314-75) up to a note in the middle of 100r, “FROM LINE 375 TO LINE 401 AT PAGE NINETY SIX”;
Ruskin is referring to a passage entitled “Coming down upon Ambleside,” which would become 4:383-408 in fair copy, and which is drafted earlier in MS VI,
following no. 131 (pp. 90-91). “Coming down upon Ambleside” may in fact have been drafted earlier, out of sequence:
the passage has no marginal line numbers; and there appears no reason why, otherwise, Ruskin would have stopped midway on a page (100r), drafted a piece on pp. 90-91, and then returned to p. 100r.
As an earlier fragment, “Coming down upon Ambleside” might have been composed soon after 4:95-100 and no. 130, which once appeared on a preceding folio, now missing.
Note also that Ruskin is still using his page numbering prior to the mutilation of MS VI (i.e., “PAGE NINETY SIX” is now his p. 90).
Returning to 100r, what we now know as 4:409ff. (402ff. here) resumes, and book 4 is composed to the end (lines 409-696; here numbered as lines 402-704; pp. 100r-105).
But Ruskin wrote an additional passage entitled “Conclusion of Iteriad,” which he did not fair-copy. This is on p. 90, between no. 131 and “Coming down upon Ambleside.”
It cannot be ascertained whether this “Conclusion” was penned earlier, at the same time as the “Ambleside” passage, or whether it was squeezed into this space after book 4 was completed.
This conclusion reads as follows (edited version first published in Works, 2:315 n. 3):
Farewell to each mountain and torrent and river
Farewell but it is not a farewell for ever
Oh no I will see the [sic] again oh Scawfell
Though now I may bid thee a mournful farewell
Yes Windermere Yes I must travel from thee
From thy bosom thy beautiful bosom I flee
But yet thou hast graven thyself on my mind
And hast left the impression so deeply behind
That time has no power to destroy or erase
Nor one line of that picture atall [sic] to efface
The author’s “Notes” are drafted on pp. 107-8 of MS VI. They must have been started after the poem was finished,
since they commence on the first recto to follow the end of book 4, and it seems unlikely that Ruskin could have predicted that his draft would end just here.
The notes refer only to book 1, and they are scored through. Since no notes at all are fair-copied in MS VII,
this embellishment of the project was obviously abandoned. Indeed, Ruskin’s 14 January 1832 letter,
in which he is “cutting capers” for having finished fair-copying the poem,
mentions that “I have yet the notes to write” (RFL, 259). This identifies the notes as having been composed sometime after January 14, 1832,
but a considerable time must have elapsed between the drafting of the poem’s final lines and the composition of the notes.
If Ruskin was at about line 320 in September 1831 (i.e., the passage in MS VIII), surely he did not spend nearly four months composing the remaining 370 lines of book 4.
The intervening time would have been devoted to fair-copying, although, as suggested earlier, fair-copying may have been keeping fair pace with composition,
lagging only three or four hundred lines behind.