The title as published, “The Months”, is not associated with “As I was walking round by Peckham rye”, which is untitled; however, in the latterʼs MS VIII draft, the title may originally have been suggested by lines of stanza 11 leading up to the interpolated poem, “January”.
Poem. Three stanzas of 10 lines; ababacaccc; iambic pentameter.
No known surviving manuscript documents the revision of “As I was walking round by Peckham rye” to form “The Months”
Between Ruskinʼs presentation of the 1 January 1835 New Yearʼs poem, “As I was walking round by Peckham rye”, and the editorʼs submission of all completed text to the publisher for the next issue of Friendshipʼs Offering (probably due in August 1835 for release of bound copies in October or November, in time for the holiday gift season), the poet and his editor would have had six or seven months in which to revise the original poem. Since the Ruskins were traveling on the Continent 2 June–10 December 1835, the revision was likely completed within five months, by the end of May 1835.
Composition & Publication
For the origin of this poem in Ruskinʼs New Yearʼs ode for 1 January 1835, see “As I was walking round by Peckham rye” (MS VIII). Ruskin (and/or the editors) shortened this poem from 17 stanzas to 3—taken from stanzas 12, 13, and 14 of the original draft/fair copy— essentially creating a new poem entirely. Stanzas 1–11 were likely eliminated as more appropriate to private, occasional verse, in which Ruskin addresses his father directly and mulls over his personal ambition as a writer and the difficulty of putting life into a “dry” topic. Stanzas 12–14, in contrast, were more impersonal and cohesive, requiring the least amount of editing and/or restructuring; and as argued respecting the draft, Ruskin may have composed them from the start with an eye to publication (see “As I was walking round by Peckham rye”: Composition and Publication). Ruskin maintained the three stanzasʼ structure with the most notable changes reflected in punctuation and word change. Typically, Ruskin punctuated his draft and fair copy poems sparingly, while punctuation was added to the published stanzas to regulate the grammar of the poem for the public. For example, “Marches maddened winds shall roar” in the draft gains clarity when edited as “Marchʼs maddenned winds, shall roar”. In Victorian publishing, responsibility for this regularization often fell to the compositor; in this case, however, this task may have been taken by the editor, W. H. Harrison, who thus began his long association with the Ruskin family as a copyeditor of Johnʼs writing and liaison with publishers and printers. Diction was edited for greater elegance and logic, albeit sacrificing some individuality. In the afore‐mentioned line, “bathed by Marches” is changed to “lashed by Marchʼs”. The colorful but awkward “Through all the air the reapers songs are lunging” becomes the more conventionally poetic “The sun‐burnt reaperʼs jocund lays are singing”. Just as the transition from a private audience to a public audience called for elimination of the first eleven stanzas, the first person pronouns—excessive use of “I” and “myself” throughout the first version—gives way to third person narrative. Again, the mediator of this shift appears to be the standalone piece, “January Suggesting that, at this point in the draft, Ruskin was already thinking about a more public piece.
As for Ruskinʼs personal life at the time of publication, he was involved in many educational opportunities. James S. Deardenʼs book John Ruskin: A Life in Pictures expands upon a miniature portrait of young Ruskin by Alfred Edward Chalon in 1836. During this time, he “was attending the Rev. Thomas Daleʼs lectures on early English literature at Kingʼs College, he was taking watercolour lessons from Copley Fielding and drawing lessons from Charles Runciman” (Dearden 27). While tackling all of these tasks, he was preparing to attend Oxford in January of the following year. His mother accompanied him on the trip while his “father would remain in London or travelling the country in connection with his sherry business” (27). Ruskin may have omitted the personal sections to his father in the poem because he wanted to preserve their connection separate from other influences.