"Brussels" [section title]
 BRUSSELS 1
"Brussels" [poem]
 
The racking clouds were fleeting fast
Upon the bosom of the blast 2
In wild confusion fiercely driven
Fled they across the face of heaven
The fitful gust came shrieking high,
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The rattling rain flew driving by
But where the horizon stretched away
Towards the couch of parting day
A streak of paly light was seen
The heaped and darkling clouds between
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Against that light, for time full brief
Brussels arose in dark relief
Colossal on the western fire
Seemed massive towʼr and slender spire
Nearer, and nearer as we drew
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More strongly marked the outlines grew,
Till of the buildings, you might see,
Distinct the Gothic tracerie
The drawbridge rung, we passed the gate, 3
And regal Brussels entered straight
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It stirs, to see the human tide
That marks a city in its pride
That fitful oceans eddying sweep
Is still more changeful than the deep
For those dark billows as they roll
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Mark movements of the human soul.
Yet in that city, there was none,
Of that confused and busy hum,
That tells of traffic, and of trade
No, Brussels time of powʼr was sped
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Yet in her streets was something seen
Spoke what the city once had been
Our rapid course as now we wheel
Where rose the huge hotel de ville 4
The noble spires proportions high
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Stood forth upon the cloudy sky,
In all its fretted majesty
And his last light the sun had sent
On buttress and on battlement
That while the houses were arrayed
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In all the depth of twilight shade,
Yet shot there faint a yellow glow
Where the tall arches shafted show
Glimmered a moment there the ray,
Then fainter grew, and past away
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Brussels, thy battlements have been
Of many an action strange the scene
Thou sawst on Julys dreadful night 5
The veterans rushing to the fight
Thou heardest when the word was spoken
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At midnight thy repose was broken
By tramp of men and neigh of steed
Battalions bursting forth to bleed
Till the dark phalanx waving crest
Forth from thy gates was forward prest
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And breaking with the morning mild
The disant roar of battle wild.
And later still the rabble shout
And revolutions riot rout
Leaving such marks as long shall tell
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Of dark destruction fierce and fell.
Brussels [drawing]—Wayside Shrine
Wayside Shrine and Worshiper
Pen and ink, approx. ? × ? cm (image only).
The editors of the Library Edition describe the image as “to left, a group of large trees; to right, a wayside shrine; between these a river with a town in the far distance” (Ruskin, Works, 2:347 n. 1). The curved expanse between the trees and the shrine may be intended for a road, not a river, as there appear to be ruts running in its center. A worshiper kneels in front of the shrine and lifts clasped hands; a pair of figures lounges beneath the trees.
Brussels [drawing]—Waterloo
Napoleon (or Wellington?) at the Battle of Waterloo
Pen and ink, approx. ? × ? cm (image only).
The editors of the Library Edition describe the image as “a sketch of the field of Waterloo; soldiers with cannon in the foreground; a general on his horse” (Ruskin, Works, 2:347 n. 1). While Ruskin certainly intends the drawing to depict a scene from the Battle of Waterloo, which is mentioned in “Brussels”—both in the prose section following the drawing, and in the poem preceding it—he based his drawing on J. M. W. Turnerʼs vignette, “Marengo”, depicting the Battle of Marengo, which was engraved for Samuel Rogers, Italy (1830) (p. 17; and see no. 6 of catalog in Piggott, Turnerʼs Vignettes, 98).
Ruskin omits the left side of Turnerʼs original drawing, copying only the general on his rearing horse and the group gathered around the cannon on the right. In order to resituate the scene in Waterloo, Ruskin also omits the Alps that Turner shows in the north above the Piedmont plain; instead, he indicates the outline of a town in the distance, intended as Brussels, shown with its two large cathedral towers in silouette. By adapting Turnerʼs scene to Waterloo, Ruskin intensifies Turnerʼs irony. The Battle of Marengo was a decisive victory for Napoleon in his second Italian campaign against the Austrians, allegedly causing the British prime minister, William Pitt (1759–1806), to declare with resignation, “Fold up that map”, meaning that the French general had effectively conquered all of Europe (Piggott, Turnerʼs Vignettes, 38). In Italy, this victory is undermined by placing Turnerʼs vignette above Rogersʼs poem, “The Descent”, referring literally to the descent from the mountains into Piedmont but figuratively to Napoleonʼs eventual fall. Ruskin completes Turnerʼs ironic statement by bringing the image forward in time to Waterloo.
Ruskin may also have meant the viewer to displace Napoleon as the equestrian figure in the foreground (which Turner based on the portrait by Jacques‐Louis David [1748–1825]), Napoleon Crossing the Alps [1802–5]) and to put the victorious Wellington in the saddle instead. The figure appears to wear his bicorne with the points “fore and aft” in Wellingtonʼs manner, rather than side to side and parallel with the shoulders in Napoleonʼs signature manner.
"Brussels" [essay]
Brussels is a lovely, a queenlike city, from
a distance, sweeping up the flanks of its
hill, battlement over battlement swell–
ing up higher, and higher, and yet higher
and the massive obscurity of the two huge
square cathedral towʼrs looming over the
whole, and contrasted strangely with the
delicate sharp spiriness of the steeple of
the hotel de ville. 6 Paris would look like
an assemblage of brick kilns beside it. 7
We saw Brussels at eleven miles distance
its towers rising dark and spearlike out

of the horizon— It was waxing dark as we
entered the city, and the lights began to
twinkle in the few, the very few shop win‐
dows. I love to pass through a city at night
the hum of the voices rises so softly out of
the obscurity, and the figures flit about
dark and batlike, and the cold starlight
mingles so strangely withe a the red swar‐
thy gleam of the lamps, and when you
look up, the narrow strip of sky is of
such a dark dark blue, you may see
it appear to quiver with the starlight
if you look long, and the white house
fronts rise so ghastly, so ghostlike agains b
it and the windows seem grinning ma–
liciously askance at you. It makes one
shiver to think of it. 8 Cities are exceed–
ingly picturesque when built upon hills
but for exploring for circumnavigating for
perambulating— Oh woe to the walker
who is compelled to drag himself up

their steeps, those tiresome paved steeps,
those hard unyielding provokingly smooth
flagstones;or to go thundering down,
his rapidity increasing every instant
 
c
when he is once in for it, lurching
tremendously like a ship in a swell,
 
d
jerk, jerk, jerking, — Oh facilis des–
census Averni, 9 sed; 10 Ay theres the rub. 11
The hotel de Bellevue at Brussels 12 ought
to have a belle vue, for you might as
 
e
well scale the crags of Gibraltar, as storm
the heights of the hotel de belle vue—;
whence, for all the boast of its title, I
never could discover more belle vue, than
a dusty square, some formal houses, &
a few murky park trees.
We left Brussels on Wednesday mor–
ning 13 for Waterloo. f the sun beamed
sweetly among the long trunk of the
aged trees of the forest of Soigny; 14 and
 
g
their damp bark glistened dewily,— as
 
h

it rose up taller, and taller, branching off
into the bending boughs, and slender spray
with the delicate foliage scattered through
here every leaf defined separately and clear
ly, as you looked up to the broad sky there
in light spready masses partially con–
cealing the long tapery grey trunks which
which i retired back, farther and still far–
ther, yet distinctly grouped, and those
groups separated by the gleamy stream,
of yellow sunshine, which shone full
 
j
on the sides of the swelling green grassy
banks, then broken by the intervening
hollows, then climbing again up the
dewy moss and white trunks. It was
exceeding beautiful, I could have fan–
cied the glister 15 of the bright bayonets
 
k
changing, like starlight on a wavy o–
cean, among the retiring foilage of
 
l
those ancient trees,— I forgot how many
long years had past by since that ev–

entful day. * * * This is the field of Waterloo. 16
The round hills of green pasture lay unbro
ken before me, without a single tree except
where far to the right the rich forest coun
try commenced again, breaking away in
rounded masses, till lost in the blue of
the faint horizon. All is peace now.
Englishmen may feel proud on the field
of Waterloo, perhaps I did, but there is
something mingled with it.— Poor
Napoleon. The grass is very green on
the field of Waterloo— it has grown from
the dust of our bravest. Oh tread on
it 17 softly 18