“The Ship” [1828–29]
Ruskin wrote the title as “The ship” in MS II, and as “THE SHIP” in MS III.
Facsimiles by permission of John Ruskin Collection, General Collection, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University. Transcriptions of texts and commentary © David C. Hanson.
A draft appears as the first item in the handmade booklet, MS II, preceding draft of “Harry and Lucy . . . Vol III”, which Ruskin must have been written toward the end of 1828. Substitutions in this draft are accounted for in a fair copy in MS III, so the latter witness definitely dates from a later time, likely from around 9 March 1829, since it is included in a group of poems given that date in manuscript (see “Of rocks first and of caverns now I sing”).
Composition and Publication
Previously unpublished in its entirety. Published in part in Poems (4o, 1891),1:269; and Poems (8o, 1891), 1:270; and Ruskin, Works, 2:264n.
See the discussion of an earlier poem, “The Ship” and “Look at That Ship” [1827]. The earlier poem shares a similar, though not identical, set of first six lines with the present poem; thereafter, however, the new poem swerves in a quite different direction, so much so that the new poem cannot be considered a version of the earlier one.
Ruskin was inspired to this revision by a sight encountered during the Tour of 1828. As he in the Travel Itinerary and Tour Notes [1828], the family, when crossing from Portsmouth to the Isle of Wight, could see the “place where royal george sunk,” a catastrophe incorporated into the revised poem. The site of this famous disaster, which occurred in 1782, is pointed out in travel guides published throughout the nineteenth century, long after the shipʼs wreckage presented a visible reminder of the catastrophe. See the glosses to the poem for details.
At line 21 of the MS III version of “The Ship” [1828‐29], a line that starts a new page (p. 40) in that manuscript, Ruskin abruptly reduces the size of his lettering and squeezes the lines closer together, possibly suggesting that he was running out of room for this fair copy. Nothing in the MS II draft indicates that Ruskin suddenly decided to lengthen the poem. In MS III, perhaps he had already begun to fair‐copy “Sonnet to the Sun”, which follows “The Ship” [1828‐29] in the anthology, but discovered that he had left insufficient space.
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