Above the first line of the first four stanzas of draft in MS VIII (pp. 1–2), Ruskin inserted the title, “Athens” in pencil, although he composed the draft itself in ink, suggesting that he considered the title to be tentative. He was apparently having difficulty making up his mind. On the back endpaper of MS VIII, he wrote a note to himself clearly referring to the fifth stanza of “Athens”, in which he names the poem “Persiad”—no doubt an invention that refers to the poemʼs subject of the Persian Wars. This title, using the classical suffix, complements Ruskinʼs title for his earlier epic poem, “Iteriad”.
The title appears to have remained tentative at least until Ruskin reached the draft of the tenth stanza in MS VIII, where he boldly wrote “Athens” above the stanza in ink, with no indication that he inserted this title later than the draft itself (stanzas 10–12 composed between December 1831 and January 1832; see Date). Nonetheless, Ruskin used no title for his fair copy in MS V, which he made shortly after completing draft of the first eighteen stanzas, toward the end of January 1832. The fair copy in MS IA, which is probably earlier, made in December 1831, likewise lacks a title contemporary with its production (see Composition and Publication). Both of these fair copies carry the title “Athens” in pencil, but the hand is probably W. G. Collingwoodʼs from a much later time, when he was preparing his edition, Poems (1891).
Of the fair copies, only MS VII presents a title. Even this manuscriptʼs elaborate title page (59r) leaves options partly open, however, by naming the work “ATHENS / or the”, with the subtitle left incomplete, and with the ornamented lettering for “ATHENS” left incompletely traced in ink over top of the penciled design. (The design matches that for the title page of “Iteriad”, also contained in MS VII.)
MS IA, MS V, MS VII, MS VIII.
Late August or September 1831 through May 1832. In their “Chronological List of Poems”, the editors of the Library Edition date this poem broadly but correctly as 1831–32 (Ruskin, Works, 2: 537).
Ruskinʼs progress in composing “Athens” can be dated reasonably closely since he entered stanzas intermittently in MS VIII relative to other dateable poems in the 1831–33 section of this notebook. His composition of this mix of “Athens” stanzas along with shorter poems appears sequential, but caveats are justified in places, which would complicate the chronology (see MS VIII: Contents, Section a).
Ruskin probably started work on “Athens” in late August or September 1831, given that the first portion of draft in MS VIII, stanzas 1–4, precedes a section of “Iteriad”, book 4, lines 297–320, which he likely composed in September. Previously, he had been drafting “Iteriad” in another notebook, MS VI, which is likewise devoted to rough draft, and in which he refers to MS VIII as the “new manuscript” (see “Iteriad”: Date and “Iteriad”: Composition and Publication). In MS VIII, however, the “Iteriad” draft appears neatly self‐contained on its page (p. 3), an appearance suggesting the possibility that Ruskin entered this passage in MS VIII first, and then wrapped the other poetry (including the opening “Athens” stanzas) on pp. 1–2 and pp. 4–6 around it. Even so, this possibility might affect the chronology only in throwing the “Iteriad” draft back in time prior to the Ruskin familyʼs departure for the Tour of 1831 to Wales. On their return, Ruskin reflects on that experience in many of the poems of MS VIII: Contents, Section a.
The first poem in MS VIII to be dated explicitly in the manuscript is “ʼTwas night. I stood by Tweedʼs fair stream” [“To the Memory of Sir Walter Scott”], which Margaret Ruskin glossed as “Oct”. Since the poem falls on p. 5, following both the opening “Athens” stanzas and the “Iteriad” draft, an October date tends to confirm August or September for the inception of “Athens”. Margaretʼs gloss, however, may refer to a revision of this poem a year later; see the details about the composition of that poem.
The next installment of “Athens” to appear in MS VIII, stanzas 5–9 (pp. 14–16), follows “Curtained in cloudy drapery” [“Moonlight on the Mountains”] (pp. 12–13), which Ruskin dated 30 November in its MS V copy, and “I here begin an invocation” (p. 14), which he could have composed anytime between December 1831 and January 1832. Thus, after beginning “Athens” in August or September 1831, Ruskin returned to the poem by the end of the year or start of the next. Note that this set of stanzas is framed by mock‐epic verses, “I here begin an invocation” and “Assist me oh thou muse divine” (p. 16).
Having resumed, Ruskin continued to alternate stanzas of “Athens” with shorter poems throughout this period of December 1831 through January 1832. Stanzas 10–12 (pp. 17–18) follow “There is a solemn silence on the scene” (p. 17) and precede “Sonnet to a Cloud” (p. 18), which likewise belong to this period. Stanzas 13–14 (pp. 19–20) follow “Oh mighty monarch of the noses purple red” (p. 19), which may be linked to a letter of 14 January 1832; and stanzas 15–18 (pp. 21–22) fall between “I heard the waters pouring” (p. 20) and “For the sound of death is in the breeze” (pp. 22–24), which cannot be dated otherwise than by their position in MS VIII, indicating the second half of January 1832.
After a brief hiatus from “Athens”, Ruskin resumed the poem in MS VIII with stanza 19 (pp. 28–29). This single stanza follows (pp. 26–28), which Ruskin dated 12 February 1832 in MS VIII. Stanza 19 is succeeded by drafts of three more poems (“Mourn, Mizraim, mourn! The weltering wave” [“The Destruction of Pharaoh”] (p. 29), “The mountain breeze it is sunk to sleep” (p. 30), and “The Isle of the” (pp. 30–31), and then MS VIII is taken up with draft of a poem that Ruskin was preparing in advance of his fatherʼs 10 May 1832 birthday, “Twelve months all rolling round have past” (pp. 31–37). How far in advance of that anniversary Ruskin was working cannot be established with certainty, except that the possible period of composition for all these poems, starting with stanza 19 of “Athens”, stretches from mid‐February to May 10.
Finally, there follows a cluster formed by the last known stanzas of “Athens” to be composed (or, at least, the last to have survived) mixed with a few other poems: stanzas 20–21 (pp. 37–38), which are followed by three miscellaneous poems (“Aspice pater invocationem” [p. 38], “Llyn Idwal” [pp. 38–39], and “They woke them from their couch of rest” [pp. 39–41]), and then by one final, unnumbered stanza (p. 41). Possible fault lines run before and after this cluster, or even between poems within the cluster, which would open up differing scenarios for dating. The most likely scenario, however, is that this final cluster belongs to the same period, mid‐February to mid‐May, that also comprises the preceding cluster starting with stanza 19 and leading up to draft of the birthday poem for John James.
For the final cluster containing the three final known stanzas of “Athens”, two clear benchmarks for dating are formed, on the clusterʼs earlier end, by the draft of the birthday poem for John James, and, on its other end, by “The grass grows green on the banks of Tweed” [“The Grave of the Poet”] (pp. 41–42). In MS VIII, Ruskin dated the latter as September 1832, for it refers to the death of Walter Scott (1771–1832) on September 21. The intervening gap of time was filled in part by the Tour of 1832, a family holiday in Dover and Hastings, which extended from 22 May through 19 July. At what point respecting this final “Athens” cluster did the holiday intervene?
The physical evidence is inconclusive. It is reassuring for the larger picture thus far formed of MS VIII: Contents, Section a that Ruskin revised his page numbering system immediately following this final cluster of “Athens” installments. From the start of MS VIII, he had numbered versos with odd numbers, but he changed to the more conventional numbering of rectos with odd numbers starting with p. 45, by omitting a p. 44 (see MS VIII: Description). This facing‐page spread of p. 43 and p. 45 contains “Song” (“I weary for the torrent leaping”), and the previous spread, pp. 41–42, contains the final, unnumbered stanza of “Athens” followed by the Scott elegy. Had Ruskin changed his numbering on the latter spread, pp. 41–42, one would be more confident in asserting that the gap in time fell here, dividing the September 1832 elegy from the final stanza of “Athens”—and indeed, the “Athens” stanza appears written using a different pen and/or ink than the poems surrounding it on that spread.
All in all, two possibilities seem most likely. One is to locate the two‐month gap on pp. 41–42, despite Ruskinʼs change in numbering coming afterward, on the spread formed by p. 43 and p. 45, since Ruskin did indicate at least an awareness of the numbering anomaly on the preceding spread, pp. 39–40, where he marked the recto page number 40 either by striking through the zero or by overwriting it with a numeral 1 (see MS VIII: Description). Since the poem on this spread, “They woke them from their couch of rest”, spills over onto p. 41 (verso), followed by the unnumbered “Athens” stanza, the physical evidence of that flagged numeral 40 lends some credence to interpreting the following spread as the watershed, dividing the final “Athens” stanza from the September elegy by the gap representing Tour of 1832.
That same evidence of the flagged numeral 40 also supports a second interpretation, identifying “They woke them from their couch of rest” (pp. 39–41) as the first poem in MS VIII on the far side of the summer journey, along with the lone, unnumbered “Athens” stanza (p. 41) and the Scott elegy (pp. 41–42). This interpretation is supported not only by the physical evidence, which situates Ruskinʼs first flagging of the numbering anomaly at the point of homecoming, but also by the content of “They woke them from their couch of rest”, which is a poem about the Scottish highlands. It is written in a distinctly darker ink and using a blunter pen than “Llyn Idwal” (pp. 38–39), which is a poem about Wales, and which is written in a lighter and finer pen and ink. This second interpretation divides the final known “Athens” stanza, which is titled “Athens” but unnumbered, from the previous “Athens” stanzas 20–21, which are both titled and numbered in the manuscript. These stanzas on pp. 37–38 are also composed in the same lighter, finer pen and ink as that used for “Aspice pater invocationem” (p. 38) “Llyn Idwal” (pp. 38–39).
The appeal of the second interpretation is that, by placing the Tour of 1832 on pp. 39–40, between “Llyn Idwal” (pp. 38–39) and “They woke them from their couch of rest”, one perceives a separation between the Welsh scenery that had dominated the poems written between August‐September 1831 and May 1832, hearkening back to the Tour of 1831, and the Scottish and Lake District scenery that dominated the poems written after July or August 1832—including the poem or poems marking Walter Scottʼs death. By situating the final known stanza of “Athens” among the latter, this reading hypothesizes the briefest renewal of the project—the unnumbered stanza possibly signaling a start on a second canto just prior to Ruskinʼs abandoning the poem for good.
Tending to confirm this interpretation for dating the final “Athens” cluster is the presence of other themes in this group of letters, January‐March 1832, which accord with the miscellaneous poems contained in the preceding cluster along with stanza 19 of “Athens”. For the poem, “Mourn, Mizraim, mourn! The weltering wave” [“The Destruction of Pharaoh”], Ruskin may have drawn on Ancient History of the Egyptians, Carthaginians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Medes and Persians, Macedonians and Grecians by Charles Rollin (1661–1741), which Margaret Ruskin had been studying with John since the previous year, and which Ruskin mentioned approvingly in his 14 January 1832 letter (Burd, ed., Ruskin Family Letters, 257). Possibly relating to the poems, , and “The mountain breeze it is sunk to sleep”, Ruskin refers in the 27 February and 4 March letters to the “gloomy foggy weather” and to the outbreaks of cholera, which had been reported in London newspapers throughout February, and which his mother had “been wishing for a wind to blow away” (Burd, ed., Ruskin Family Letters, 267, 273, 273 n. 3).
The dating of the clusters of stanzas throughout the MS VIII draft tends to be confirmed by the probable dates of the fair copies in MS IA, MS V, and MS VII (see Composition and Publication
Composition and Publication
Previously unpublished. While the MS IA and MS V fair copies each carry an annotation appearing to be in the hand of W. G. Collingwood, indicating that the editor was aware of the poemʼs multiple versions, he did not include “Athens” in Poems (1891), probably because he regarded the unfinished epic as falling under his policy of omitting “such poems and passages as were either without general interest, or incomplete and inadequately representative of the authorʼs attainments and style at the time” (Poems [4o, 1891], 1: ; Poems [8o, 1891], 1: xii).
In Ruskinʼs mind, his composition of “Athens” was closely associated with his immediately preceding work on the epic, “Iteriad”, as shown in various compositional details. In addition to the correspondence of the classicized title “Iteriad” to the title “Persiad”, which Ruskin entertained for the new poem (see Title), other ties between the composition of the two works include the following:
- Ruskin began drafting “Athens” when nearing the end of drafting “Iteriad” and preparing to fair‐copy the latter in MS VII.
- Ruskin started composition of “Iteriad” near the beginning of the rough‐copy notebook MS VI, and he composed blocks of text intermittently, among shorter poems. Just so, the opening stanzas of “Athens” were among the first entries drafted in a new rough‐copy notebook, MS VIII, and Ruskin continued his practice of returning to the project intermittently, drafting additional stanzas amid shorter poems.
- A fair copy of “Athens” is contained in MS VII, following the fair copy “Iteriad”, Ruskin devising a title page for the second epic that complemented the title page for “Iteriad” in lettering style.
- Ruskin included fair copy of some stanzas from both poems in MS V.
None of the extant fair copies of “Athens” extends the length of the 22 stanzas available in the MS VIII rough draft; and if Ruskin intended to divide the poem into cantos, as suggested by his incomplete fair‐copy title in MS VII, the extant draft must be incomplete, and all fair copies fragmentary. Since dating suggests that composition of the draft was interrupted by the familyʼs Tour of 1831, it seems likely that Ruskin simply abandoned the project.
The intermittent composition of “Athen” in MS VIII—of which an account is already laid out above, in the argument for dating the stages of the poemʼs invention—was closely shadowed at three stages by fair‐copying.
The MS IA fair copy is a folded sheet containing seven stanzas. The stanzas are unnumbered, and the copyistʼs hand appears to be Margaret Ruskinʼs. The manuscript is undated and cannot be dated by physical evidence; however, several factors point to late 1831, making this version the earliest of the fair copies. On the evidence of dating the draft in MS VIII, Ruskin had drafted the first nine stanzas of “Athens” by December 1831. The MS IA version probably belongs to the same period, since it is untitled, whereas the earliest draft appearing to have been entitled confidently in MS VIII is stanza 10, from late December 1831 or January 1832 (see Title). (At the top of MS IA, “Athens” is written in pencil; however, the hand, which does not resemble any of the Ruskinsʼ, appears to be W. G. Collingwoodʼs.)
The purpose of the MS IA copy may be indicated by its probable dating of December, suggesting the intention of a New Yearʼs poem. The works itself is obviously not an occasional poem of this kind, however, and no other such presentation is known in Margaretʼs hand. Typically, Margaret produced fair copies to send to John James while he was traveling, but no family letters survive between May 1831 and mid‐January 1832 to help confirm this possible purpose.
The fair copy in MS V was made by Ruskin, and it contains seventeen stanzas, numbered by him. Ruskin cannot have started making this copy earlier than the fair copy of “Sonnet to a Cloud”, which precedes the fair copy of “Athens” in MS V. In MS VIII draft, this “Sonnet” falls between the draft of “Athens” stanzas 10–12 and the draft of stanzas 13–18—the whole of this segment of this draft of stanzas 10–18 being attributed to between December 1831 to January 1832. That Ruskin made this MS V fair copy of “Athens” immediately following draft composition through stanza 18 accords well with what follows the fair copy in MS V—namely, “Sonnet to the Morning”, which Ruskin dated 5 February  in its MS VIII draft, and “The Song of the Southern Breeze”, which he dated 12 February  in MS VIII. Tending to confirm this reconstruction of the sequence of drafting and fair copying, stanza 19 of “Athens”, which is not included in the MS V version, appears in MS VIII draft immediately following “The Song of the Southern Breeze”. Thus, Ruskin resumed draft soon after he had completed the MS V fair copy of the first 18 stanzas.
The discrepancy between the total number of seventeen stanzas in MS V and the eighteen available in MS VIII up to the point of Ruskinʼs fair‐copying is explained by the MS V version having dropped the fifth stanza of the draft in MS VIII, causing the sixth stanza of MS VIII to become the fifth in MS V. Thereafter, the stanza numbering in MS V always lags behind MS VIII by one. The final stanza to be fair‐copied in MS V, “XVII”, is thus the eighteenth stanza of draft in MS VIII. The missing stanza is present in MS IA and in MS VII.
In MS VIII, one stanza, originally the sixth, was completely cancelled. This, however, is not the stanza dropped from MS V, and the cancellation has no necessary bearing on the other discrepancies between the two versions. Ruskin himself may or may not have been responsible for this cancellation. The stanza is scored in pencil, perhaps by the same hand that had penciled in a word in that same stanza—a hand that appears closer to Margaretʼs than Ruskinʼs.
If Margaret made her MS IA copy in December 1831, Ruskin made his soon afterward, in January 1832; and in both copies the poem remained untitled. (Again, the title appears in pencil, but in the same hand, probably Collingwoodʼs, that docketed the copy in MS IA.) Each of these versions contains minor variants in wording and punctuation compared to the MS VIII draft, and these variants are peculiar to their respective manuscripts, showing no influence of one on the other. This independence is very clear in the final stanza to be copied in MS IA, stanza 7, in which Margaret followed the MS VIII draft much more closely than did John in MS V. Nonetheless, it is clear that MS V uses the MS VIII draft as copytext for the first seven stanzas, not the MS IA copy (see Textual Note).
The missing fifth stanza in MS V appears to have involved some struggle in composition. In Margaretʼs MS IA fair copy, the ninth line of the fifth stanza reads: “But wake not those below their foam who lie” (their referring to the ocean “billows”). Beneath “wake”, Margaret penciled in an alternate version of the line, “them—they sleep eternally”. The alternate revives a version of the line that Ruskin had rejected in the MS VIII draft: “But wake not them they sleep eternally”, Ruskin replacing the deletion with “those below their foam who lie” inserted above the line. On the back endpaper of MS VIII, Ruskin dwelled on the issue with a memorandum: “For line 9th Verse 5th Persiad (But wake not those below its breast who their foam that lie”—with “their foam that” added to replace the deletion. No evidence settles the enticing question of whether the difficulty with this line caused Ruskin to omit the fifth stanza from MS V altogether. In MS VII, he accepted what may have been his motherʼs preference: “But wake not them: They sleep eternally”. He also carried on with the fair‐copying for only four more lines into the sixth stanza, before abandoning this version.
Beyond the MS V version, which is the longest of the fair‐copy texts, the MS VIII draft carries on for four more stanzas. These were never fair‐copied, so far as we know. The final stanza to be composed in MS VIII stands alone, and it is unnumbered. Its generalized descriptive content gives no indication about where in the epic it should fit. Its first line, “The sunset shone upon the isles of Greece”, reads like a new opening. Perhaps Ruskin thought of the stanza as the opening of a projected second canto.
Ruskin cannot have commenced the fair copy in MS VII earlier than the preceding fair copy of “Iteriad”, which he completed on 11 January 1832, when Ruskin he put his final orthographical flourish to the “Finis” (see “Iteriad”: Date). Even then, the task remained of adding the “notes” to the earlier poem, as he admitted in a 14 January 1832 letter, promising to append them “in such a style that the company shall stare” (Burd, ed., Ruskin Family Letters, 259).
By the time he finished fair‐copying “Iteriad” in MS VII, therefore, Ruskin had probably completed the first eighteen stanzas of draft for “Athens”, which he used as copytext for the MS V version. Since he fair‐copied the latter in late January or early February 1832, shortly following the drafting of the poem through that point, logic suggests that he started the MS VII version no earlier than his resumption of the draft with stanza 19, after 12 February 1832. By this time, he was able to head his fair copy with at least a partial title.
How long after mid‐February Ruskin may have started this new fair copy cannot be determined with physical or textual evidence. He fair‐copied only five stanzas and the first four lines of the sixth, and the punctuation variants bear little relation to the MS IA and MS V versions. The most significant variant is the inclusion in MS VII of the fifth stanza in the MS VIII draft, which Ruskin omitted from the MS V fair copy. Again, logic suggests that MS VII is a later version than MS V, in that MS VII makes this correction (and extends the text only so far as to confirm this correction). Admittedly, the window of time available in the second half of January might allow a hypothesis of the MS V version as Ruskinʼs preferred text, deliberately excluding the fifth stanza that he had already fair‐copied in MS VII. This scenario seems unlikely, however, since Ruskin was in fact sorely pressed for time to fit in his many activities. If in his “former letters, the great subject is want of time”, he wrote to his father on 20 February 1832, he found “it now still more scarce than ever for what with [his lessons in] Livy, and Lucian, Homer, French, Drawing, Arithmetic, globe work, & mineralogical dictionary, I positively am all flurry, all hurry, never a moment in which there is not something that ought to be done”. As for poetry, he was “sorry to inform” his father on 27 February that, since John James had been away from home traveling for orders (since 19 February, at the latest), Pegasus had “flown so high, that I am unable to follow it, & the reinless Pegaus has left me hurled from his too lofty back & stuck in the mud of this nether earth. . . . I can compose no more till your presence inspires me with new vigour, & again I shall ride on the Pegasian wing” (Burd, ed., Ruskin Family Letters, 263, 268, and see 260 n. 9).
Even when John James returned home, Ruskinʼs poetry composition and appear to have been checked, with the traditional birthday ode for his father recycling material from the previous yearʼs birthday poem, and the version of the poem in MS VIII apparently representing a collaborative composition between father and son (see “Twelve months all rolling round have past”). Fair‐copying, too, evidently became mired. Ruskin did not continue any fair‐copying at all in MS V, beyond “Athens” and the two following poems, “Sonnet to the Morning” and “The Song of the Southern Breeze”, dated 5 and 12 February, respectively, in draft.
While it is possible, therefore, that Ruskin may have taken up “Athens” in its MS VII fair copy well after the period of the poemʼs composition, which appears to have been arrested prior to the familyʼs departure for Dover on 22 May 1832, the MS VII versionʼs state of incompletion combined with increasing ambition—the verso of its incomplete title page announcing in light pencil the division, “Canto First” (59v), and the facing page declaring in light pencil “THE ARGUMENT” (60r), which was never added—suggest that this collapse in plans belongs to the same period as the other fragmented projects in the first five months of 1832. This interpretation seems consistent with Ruskinʼs possible message in “Aspice pater invocationem”, composed as part of the final cluster containing “Athens” draft—stanzas 20–21 and the final unnumbered stanza. Ruskinʼs meaning in this Latin poem is obscure, but he appears to beg his father for a new “quarto”—that is, possibly, for a new notebook or ledger, like the one devoted to the fair copy of “Iteriad” (MS VII). The Latin poem does not mention “Athens” specifically, but its classical epic style (“Aspice, pater, invocationem”) suggests that he wanted a fresh notebook in order to fair‐copy his new epic. Apparently, he did not receive this “boon”, since he used MS VII itself to begin his new fair copy.
If “Iteriad” was Ruskinʼs epic of travel adventure—his Odyssey, as it were—“Athens” was his corresponding battle epic, his Iliad. The poem draws on the events of Xerxesʼs great march on Athens and the Battle of Marathon. The primary ancient source narrating these events, Herodotusʼs Histories, is not mentioned in the poem, which reflects little knowledge of its Herodotean subject. What scanty historical material used in the poem could have been drawn from Charles Rollinʼs Ancient History of the Egyptians, Carthaginians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Medes and Persians, Macedonians and Grecians, which Ruskin and his mother were reading in early 1831 (letter of 28 February 1831 [Burd, ed., Ruskin Family Letters, 228]).
Peculiarly, the poem is more heavily indebted to Childe Haroldʼs Pilgrimage and Don Juan by Lord Byron than to Herodotus, Ruskin employing Byronʼs Spenserian stanza for the work. Even more peculiarly, in the middle stanzas, 12–16, the style veres markedly from the Byronic to the Wordsworthian, showing the influence of The Excursion in general, and of “The Brothers” in particular. While the influence of Wordsworthʼs shorter poems can be detected in some earlier poems by Ruskin (e.g., the line, “My heart leaps up when I behold”, “To My Heart”), valuable evidence of Ruskinʼs first engagement with Wordsworth may be more apparent in “Athens” than in the Cumbrian travel poem, “Iteriad”.
Ruskinʼs growing acquaintance with Herodotean history, if not necessarily with Herodotus himself, is evident throughout the 1830s. The earliest direct mention in John Jamesʼs accounts of purchasing a “Herodotus” for the Ruskin household is November 1834 (Burd, ed., Ruskin Family Letters, 286 n. 1), too late to have had any bearing on Ruskinʼs composition “Athens”. This purchase could be connected with fragmentary notes in the manuscript, Practical Geometry, which dates from either early 1832 or early 1833 and afterward. On the front inside endboard of this manuscript, Ruskin sketched what appears to be a rough plan for a work drawing on Greek history:
[Pelasge(?)] Ellenes mention of them made in Herodotus. | Grecian Mythology its origin & [peculiarities(?)]. | Grecian colonies on shores of Euxine. | Oracles, name most celebrated | Trace [connection(?)] between Greece & Egypt rites & institutions | Sketch of the state of Asiatic Empires at beginning of reign of Croesus | Institutions of Lycurgus probable dates particulars of history | Geographical sketch of Greece to Macedonia | Sketch of the political state of Thessaly. | Geog. description of Egypt | Macedonian Empire
These notes—undated, but in style resembling the draft notes for Sermons on the Pentateuch of 1833–34—reflect increased familiarity with the scope of Herodotusʼs history. It is barely possible that the notes a projected resumption and expansion of “Athens”, or the notes may sketch a plan for different work altogether, which was never realized, or the notes may be nothing more than a summary of topics in the first part of the Histories. In any case, these notes along with “Athens” confirm that Ruskin had some acquaintance with the Greek historian, if only at second hand, well before he attended Oxford (see also his 1836 remark about Herodotus, in letter of 25 March 1836 [Burd, ed., Ruskin Family Letters, 351]).
At Oxford, where Ruskin studied Herodotus as part of the undergraduate curriculum, which was still largely devoted to classics, the Greek historian remained connected in Ruskinʼs mind with verse composition. In 1837–38, the Histories inspired Ruskinʼs poems, “The Scythian Grave”, “Aristodemus at Plataea”, “A Scythian Banquet Song”, “The Recreant”, and (probably also from this period) the prose fragment, Expedition of Darius into Scythia.