“mistwreaths” (MS IA, g.1; MS IX; Poems [1891]; Works [1903])—The compound occurs in at least two poems by Walter Scott (1771–1832). In one, “On the Massacre of Glencoe” (1814), a minstrel names things that retain “lone security”, such as the “mist‐wreath” which “has the mountain‐crest”, as opposed to the slain and dispersed Highland victims of the Glencoe massacre, who were betrayed on account of their Jacobite loyalties (Scott, Works, 50:151). The other poem, The Vision of Don Roderick (1811), may bear greater intertextual interest for Ruskinʼs poem than merely providing a source of poetic diction. Scott composed his poem as a heroic ode in Spenserian stanzas, in support of relief to Portugal during the Peninsular War. In the poem, Don Roderick, “the last Gothic King of Spain”, descends into an enchanted “ancient vault, . . . the opening of which had been denounced as fatal to the Spanish Monarchy”. Here, the king witnesses a vision of three future periods of crisis in the Iberian peninsula, the last involving the “unparalleled treachery of Bonaparte”. In Don Roderickʼs vision, the attempted usurpation by the French is thwarted by “the arrival of the British succours”. As the vision dissipates, the narrator looks forward to a triumphant conclusion: “though the Vault of Destiny be gone, / King, prelate, all the phantasms of my brain, / Melted away like mist‐wreaths in the sun, / Yet grant for faith, for valour, and for Spain, / One note of pride and fire, a patriotʼs parting strain!” (Scott, Works, 47:275, 310 [preface, stz. 43]). Line 10 of Ruskinʼs poem may allude to such a vision of history, the “fairy vision of a dream”, since the narrator has departed from the Field of Waterloo, the scene of “British succours”, in the preceding section of the “Account”, “Brussels”, and now crosses the Meuse River to enter a Europe liberated from the imperial ambitions of Napoleon.


“The fairy vision of a dream” (MS IA, g.1; MS IX; Poems [1891]; Works [1903])—Referring to the same view of the Meuse River and its cliffs at Namur, Frances Trollope (1779–1863), traveling the Continent in the same year as the Ruskins, greeted “the first picturesque landscape we had looked upon since we entered Belgium. A little bright, meandering stream, a beetling rock of mountain limestone hanging over it, with a most Udolpho‐like‐looking castle in the woods beyond, formed a perfect treat for . . . picturesque‐seeking travellers, who, for the last month, had seen nothing but the level plains of Flanders, Antwerp, and Brabant. . . . The approach to Namur is magnificent. The town lies in a basin at the juncture of the Sambre and the Meuse. At the angle formed by this ‘meeting of the waters’ is the bold, abrupt termination of the long range of hills, running between them; and on the summit of this lofty eminence stands the citadel, with its superb works, stretching over the whole face of the mountain” (Trollope, Belgium and Western Germany in 1833, 1:85–86).


“Peak over peak, fantastic ever . . . Rose sheerly from the rivers bed” (MS IA, g.1; MS IX; Poems [1891]; Works [1903])—In the accompanying drawing, The Meuse River and Cliffs, Ruskin depicts the cliffs as improbably “fantastic”; however, their shapes likewise prompted the English travel writer and geographer, John Barrow (1764–1848), to fancifulness, when recording a family journey from Huy to Namur in 1828: “In the ruder parts of the rocky defile are seen the mantling ivy and numerous creepers climbing up the steep sides, which, with the lofty pinnacles and crested summits, give to these masses of rock the appearance of a succession of ruined castles, that are scarcely to be distinguished by the eye from those ancient fabrics, which are actually existing, and which may occasionally be seen peeping through the dense woods, or perched on the very pinnacle of some rocky eminence. In some places, either by the wasting away of the earth or loose materials, or by the working of the quarrymen, huge masses of naked rock are seen as if suspended in the air, or supported on so small a base, as to appear to threaten the traveller below with momentary danger of rolling down into the road” (Barrow, Family Tour through South Holland, 245–46).


“A barrier to eternity” (MS IA, g.1; MS IX; Poems [1891]; Works [1903])—Compare the characterization of the Alps as “the barriers of a World” in “The Alps” by Samuel Rogers in Italy (p. 30). If Ruskin poetically saw a “barrier to eternity”, John Murray pointed out in these cliffs and fortifications “the great barrier on the side of France; the work of centuries to erect, at the cost of vast sums of money, and as vast an expenditure of blood”. The fortresses at Namur and Huy had been “greatly strengthened since the war, under the inspection of the Duke of Wellington, and partly at the expense of Great Britain”. Murray added, however, that the works had been less kept up recently, owing to “the revolution of 1830” having “produced so intimate a connection between France and Belgium” (Murray, Hand‐book for Travellers on the Continent, 150).


“How . . . we swept over the long bridge that crosses the river . . . and looked back on the rich dome . . . of its cathedral” (MS VIII; MS IX; Works [1903])—As John Murray explains in his 1836 guidebook to the Continent, since Namur is situted at the juncture of the Sambre River and the Meuse River, it boasted two main bridges in the 1830s. What Ruskin calls the “long” bridge was the western one, spanning the Meuse, the much wider of the two rivers. From the far bank, on the road to Huy and Liège, both Murray and Ruskinʼs cousin, Mary Richardson (1815–49) remarked on the picturesque view looking back on the fortifications above Namur. John Barrow (1764–1848), crossing this bridge “of blue stone and nine arches” from the opposite direction, compared the approach to that of the impressive Ehrenbreitstein fortress towering above Coblentz, where the Rhine River meets the Moselle River. Ruskinʼs backward glance at the “rich dome of the cathedral” may refer to the late‐baroque dome of the cathedral of St. Aubin, a relatively modern church that, Barrow notes, had suffered the “bad usage of the French soldiery, who converted it into a barrack and a hospital”, but that was now “kept in a state of good repair and perfect neatness”. The other principal church was the baroque edifice of the Jesuit church, St. Loup, which was not domed, but which was celebrated for its carved‐stone interior vault—as “glaring within”, in Murrayʼs opinion, “as gilding and marble can make it” (Murray, Hand‐book for Travellers on the Continent, 150; Diary of Mary Richardson, 1833, p. 11; Barrow, Family Tour through South Holland, 246, 251).


“If you wish to see rock scenery in perfection, go to the Meuse” (MS VIII; MS IX; Works [1903])—The Library Edition adds this note: “Ruskin thus early fixed on characteristics of Meuse scenery which he afterwards enforced”. See letter of 8 September 1867 in Ruskin, Letters to William Ward, in reference to sending Ward in that year for a sketching tour on the Meuse, in company with George Allen (Ruskin, Works, 2:350 n. 1).


“But . . . the eve saw us quit the magnificent Meuse with sorrow for the smoky streets and coal wharfs of Liege, and the round, dumpy, shapeless hills of Spa” (MS VIII; MS IX; Works [1903])—John Murray cautions in his guidebook that, while “a visit to Liège” would likely “call to the mind of an Englishman the vivid scenes and descriptions” of medieval France in Walter Scottʼs Quentin Durward (1823), the visitor would “in vain endeavour to identify many of the places . . . spoken of” by Scott in this now modern industrial city. Mrs. Trollope, in her travel narrative of 1833, while claiming to have had better luck in tracking down the original sites of Scottʼs romance, agrees with Murray that the nineteenth‐century city presented a far different spectacle than a fifteenth‐century romance. Murray continues: “The manufacturing city” of Liège had become “the Birmingham of the Low Countries”, proclaimed as such by “the clouds of smoke usually seen from a distance hanging over it”; and “the dirty houses, murky atmosphere, and coal‐stained streets, are the natural consequence of the branch of industry in which its inhabitants are engaged”. As chief among these industries, Murray singles out the manufacture of firearms and of machinery, iron foundaries, saddlery and coarse cloth production. Coal was mined so close to the townʼs vicinity “that their [mining] galleries are carried under the streets” (Murray, Hand‐book for Travellers on the Continent, 152; Trollope, Belgium and Western Germany in 1833, 1:93–94). As for Spa, Murray pronounced it in 1836 as “out of fashion” as a watering place, and “its scenery . . . very inferior to that of the Rhine”, albeit “very prettily situated in a sort of semi‐basin, in the midst of mountains forming part of the Ardennes Chain” (Murray, Hand‐book for Travellers on the Continent, 155‐57).