Title
“The Storm”
Ruskin wrote the title as “The storm”. In manuscript, the title serves for what read as two distinct versions of this poem, rather than as two strophes of a single poem. The two parts do not appear to form a single work in the usual sense (see Composition and Publication, although Ruskin did not repeat the title, but only drew a line between the strophes. Rather, the second part or strophe seems to start the poem anew, as if as a second version; the two parts are designated editorially as (a) and (b).
Genre
Poem.
Manuscripts
MS III (pp. 69–70), a Red Book devoted primarily to “Harry and Lucy”, Vol. 2. The two parts of “The Storm” form the ninth and final work in “Poetry Discriptive”.
Facsimile and transcript by permission of John Ruskin Collection, General Collection, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University.
Date
See “Wales”: Date; and Tours of 1826–27: Wales and Scotland, 1827 for the family journey with which the poems in “Poetry Discriptive” are connected.
Composition and Publication
Previously unpublished.
Two strophes on the subject of a storm appear in succession, separated by a horizontal line. Such lines separate the stanzas also in “Glen of Glenfarg” (“Glen of Glenfarg thy beauteous rill”), another poem in “Poetry Discriptive”, but in that case the stanzas clearly flow continuously from one to the next. In “The storm”, strophe (b) appears to start the poem anew and revise (a); and as an indication that Ruskin meant strophe (b) to replace (a), he wrote the word “bad” on the same line as the runover of the final line of (a), as if declaring that strophe rejected. Little time appears to have elapsed between this decision and the composition of (b), the hand remaining consistent; and the immediacy of this revision perhaps explains why Ruskin did not repeat the title, as if considering the original title to remain in play.
While the meaning of bad may be open to interpretation, I have marked it as a metamark—not a part of the poem itself, but as disapproving comment on strophe (a]), prompting the composition of (b) as a replacement. The most obvious evidence for this interpretation is that the runover line becomes jibberish (“light bad nings”) if one treats bad as part of the line itself. Other evidence for treating the word as a separable metamark is the physical alignment of the runovers of the final two lines, which, if is omitted, appears in keeping with that of other poems in the anthology.
Discussion
If bad is read as a judgment on strophe (a), one quality that may explain the rejection is the violence of the woman’s death in that version of the poem. In other very early work, there is evidence of Ruskinʼs avoiding expression of violence. For example, among Ruskinʼs boyhood books is his copy of The History of Little Jack (1820) by Thomas Day (1748–89) (Dearden, Library of John Ruskin, no. 690), in which Ruskin traced outlines of the scenes depicted in the plates, using the platesʼ blank versos—all of the plates, that is, except one that depicts two boys fighting. Another early example of apprehension of conflict is the poem, “The Defiance of War”>.
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