“On Scotland” [“Farewell to Scotland”]

Title
“On Scotland” [“Farewell to Scotland”]
Ruskin wrote the title as “on scotland”. He also designated the poem as “poem II” in “Poetry” [MS I Poetry Anthology]. The title “Farewell to Scotland” was invented by W. G. Collingwood for Poems (1891).
Genre
Rhyming couplets; iambic pentameter. See Discussion for possible connection with travel.
Manuscripts
MS I (pp. 100–101), a Red Book devoted primarily to “Harry and Lucy”, Vol. 1. “On Scotland” [“Farewell to Scotland”] is the second poem in “Poetry” [MS I Poetry Anthology].
Facsimile and transcript by permission of John Ruskin Collection, General Collection, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University.
Date
September 1826–January 1827, most likely toward the end of that period. There is a possibility of the poem dating from as early as January 1826. See “The Needless Alarm”: Date.
Composition and Publication
Poems (4o, 1891), 1:xxiii; Poems (8o, 1891), 1:ix–x; and Ruskin, Works, 2:256.
Hand is pencil, print; see Ruskinʼs Handwriting.
Discussion
Like “Glen of Glenfarg” (“Glen of Glenfarg thy beauteous rill”)), “On Scotland” may have been directly related to a Ruskin family journey to Scotland in September 1826. As discussed in Tours of 1826–27, however, it is unclear whether evidence indicates two separate northern journeys, one of 1826 and one of 1827, or only a single tour of 1827. It is certainly the case that W. G. Collingwood was incorrect to assume that “On Scotland” contains “a reminiscence of the May sunshine in which [the Ruskins] went northwards” contrasting “with the autumnal gloom of the departure” from Perth (Poems [4o, 1891], 1:xxiii, Poems [8o, 1891], 1:ix). We now know that, in 1826, the family could have journeyed north only later in the year, not in May.
The poemʼs trope of “changes” can refer to a topographical experience without that experience being literally seasonal, as Collingwood assumed; the phrase “as on sprightly May” functions as a simile. The strength of this poemʼs topographical observation of contrast between “pretty Perth” and the dreariness of the moor, and of the character of the Earn River, is the strongest argument for the poemʼs grounding in a journey north that would have to have taken place in 1826, not 1827, in order for Ruskin to have entered the poem in “Poetry” [MS I Poetry Anthology]—if the poem refers to actual and recent experience at all.
The “changes” can also be emotional. See again Tours of 1826–27 for how 1826 was additionally burdened by the death of Ruskinʼs cousin James Richardson, who had been living at Herne Hill and working for Ruskin, Telford, and Domecq, but by April 1826 had grown so ill from tuberculosis that he had to return to Scotland. If John James and Margaret accompanied James to Perth, where he died on 8 May—and Margaret later recalled to John James the “journey up,” when “both you & I had repeatedly asked [James] if he was quite sure he was happy”—they presumably would not have exposed John to infection by bringing him along on the journey (letter of 8 May 1826 [Burd, ed., Ruskin Family Letters, 142]).
Ruskin grew despondent over Jamesʼs departure, his depression deepened by the protracted absence also of his father: “No papa no James,” he complained to his mother (letter of 7 May 1826 [Burd, ed., Ruskin Family Letters, 141]). For other writing possibly connected with Jamesʼs death, see “The Defiance of War”; “Harry and Lucy”, Vol. 2; and a canceled line in “The Ship” [1828–29] (“by which the Scottish James did meet his death”).
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