“[T]he walls of merry däyle” (MS VIII; Poems [1891]; Works [1903])—W. G. Collingwood conjectured that the word transcribed here as däyle should be read as Kehl—the name of the village directly east of Strasbourg, across the Rhine—and Collingwoodʼs editing of the line and his justification were reprinted by the editors of the Library Edition. According to Collingwood, “the word in the original is illegible”, so he based his interpretation on the poemʼs overall suggestion of locale (Poems [4o, 1891], 1:138, 283, and Poems [8o, 1891], 1:138, 285). But while the letters are formed uncertainly, and Ruskin worried the handwriting in these opening two lines with pen strokes that are not quite strikethroughs, the letters are legible enough, and they certainly do not spell Kehl. I suggest that Ruskin made a nonce word, däyle, either because he could not remember the name of the “merry” place in question, or because he was making a joke—an umlauted and grotesquely spelled word to rhyme with dale, signifying the quaintness of German language. Elsewhere in the “Account”, Ruskin does not hesitate to adopt a condescending attitude toward German culture, as in the prose section of “Ehrenbreitstein” (see The Ruskinsʼ Attitudes toward Germany).
All this said, with Ruskinʼs nonce word frustrating the identity of the poemʼs intended locale, Collingwood was likely correct to infer that “the poem must refer to the dayʼs journey described in Praeterita: “earliest morning saw us trotting over the bridge of boats to Kehl, and in the eastern light I well remember watching the line of the Black Forest hills enlarge and rise, as we crossed the plain of the Rhine” (Poems [4o, 1891], 1:283, Poems [8o, 1891], 1:285; Ruskin, Works, 2:365 n. 1; 35:113). While visiting Strasbourg on the French side of the Rhine, the Ruskins stayed the nights of 6–7 June on the German side in Kehl. This inconvenience was likely owing to the reputation of the “French custom house on the opposite side” for being so “notoriously strict” that, as John Murray III advised, “persons wishing to see merely Strasburg” should “leave their carriage and baggage at Kehl and hire a calèche” to cross the pontoon bridge. Mrs. Trollope, traveling in the same year as the Ruskins, took the advice; and amusing herself by watching others being searched by the French officials, testified that she “never saw caution carried to so comic an excess”. The Ruskins refused, however, to sacrifice the comfort of their carriage for sight‐seeing in Strasbourg, with the result that they had to vacate the vehicle to be searched, as Mary Richardson complained (Hand‐book for Travellers on the Continent, 445; Trollope, Belgium and Western Germany in 1833, 2:66; Diary of Mary Richardson, 1833, 33–34).
The “walls” that Ruskin mentions in the opening lines, along with the military metaphor of the surrounding hills that “ramparted” the plain, were appropriate associations with Kehl. In the seventeenth century, Louis XIVʼs military architect, Marshal Vauban, designed fortifications on both sides of the Rhine, at Strasbourg and Kehl, guarding the Rhine crossing. The strategic position at Kehl was besieged and captured by the Austrians during the French Revolutionary Wars, but later annexed by Napoleon—“convert[ing] the peaceful German village” of Kehl, according to a British tourist in the early 1830s, “into a menacing French fortification”. In fact, following the Congress of Vienna Kehlʼs fortifications were taken down and remained “at present . . . dismantled”, as Murray pointed out in 1836, but remnants still could appeal to the imagination, and Vaubanʼs citadel remained standing across the river in Strasbourg (Leigh, Rhenish Album, 332; Hand‐book for Travellers on the Continent, 445).


“We entered on a little glen / Those miniature Alps among, / . . . / But the dell narrowed as we went / Till, ʼtwixt the promontories pent / . . . / from the obscure / Emerged we on a lofty moor, / Open, and shelterless, and bare, / And gently undulating far” (MS VIII; Poems [1891]; Works [1903])—The passing landscape described over the course of the poem corresponds to impressions a traveler could have formed along the Ruskinsʼ route from Kehl to Schaffhausen. In the diary kept by Ruskinʼs cousin, Mary Richardson, she mentions passing through Offenburg, Biberach, Hausach, Hornberg, (possibly) Schonach, Villingen, Donaueschingen, and Blumberg. This is route CVIII in Murrayʼs 1836 Hand‐b,ook for Travellers on the Continent (pp. 448–50), a route that leads from the Rhine plain into the Black Forest via the valley of the Kinzig River, starting at where this stream empties into the Rhine at Kehl. Here, on the western side of the Black Forest facing the Rhine, the wooded heights are steep and the ravines narrow, as Ruskinʼs poem describes; and on the eastern side of the Black Forest nearer the headwaters of the Danube, hills are more rounded and give way to plateaus—Ruskinʼs “south horizon!” (although see below for an alternative reading of the latter detail in the poemʼs topography).
As the road penetrates deeper into the Black Forest, Murray comments as does Mary Richardson, the route “passes through a country which has quite a Swiss character”, tenanted by “broad‐roofed wooden houses” (Hand‐book for Travellers on the Continent, 448; and see Diary of Mary Richardson, 1833, 35). In Ruskinʼs Plan for Continuation of the Account of a Tour on the Continent, the section proposed to fall between “Strasburg” and “Schaffhausen” is called “The Swiss Cottages”. Since Ruskinʼs poem about the Black Forest, in keeping with other poems in the “Account”, is confined to the landscape, he likely intended a prose section and drawings to describe the cottages (which, presumably, were not actually “Swiss”, as described in the The Poetry of Architecture [Ruskin, Works, 1:33–35], but examples of the Black Forest house with its long, hipped roof extending almost to the ground). This planned prose section is very likely represented by the prose fragment, “It was a wide stretchy sweep of lovely blue champaign”, which immediately follows “Oh, the morn looked bright on hill and dale” in MS VIII.
Toward the end of this route to Schaffhausen, at Donaueschingen Mary Richardson remarked that they crossed the Danube—not literally, of course, but meaning that they passed near the confluence of two rivers, the Breg and Brigach, that form the headwaters of the Danube. For the Ruskins, this encounter perhaps seemed the most eastern part of their journey, a suggestion of Austrian regions, where they would venture during their next Continental tour, in 1835.


“Flowed a small tributary stream / That the Rhine levied” (MS VIII; Poems [1891]; Works [1903])—Probably the Kinzig River, which empties into (i.e., as a “tributary” is “levied” by) the Rhine near Kehl. The road followed by the Ruskins (now Highway B33) accompanied the Kinzig and its tributaries throughout their traversal of the Schwarzwald. (For the syntax of these lines, see textual glosses.)


“Emerged we on a lofty moor, / Open, and shelterless, and bare, / And gently undulating far” (MS VIII; Poems [1891]; Works [1903])—As suggested above, this change in the landscape most likely refers to the eastern Black Forest around Villingen, where a wide prospect opens to the south. However, Murray describes another such change above Hornberg, where “a height [is] crowned by an old donjon keep,” an ascent requiring additional horses for carriages. “After surmounting it, the road traverses a considerable extent of bleak bare country, which includes highest land in the Black Forest, and is an elevated but undulating plateau, rather than a chain of isolated summits” (Hand‐book for Travellers on the Continent, 449). See “It was a wide stretchy sweep of lovely blue champaign” and glosses.