Joseph Mallord William Turner

Inscription by Turner: A Translation from Welsh Poetry


View this artwork by appointment, at Tate Britain's Prints and Drawings Rooms

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 329 x 225 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856

Catalogue entry

At the top right, Turner has inscribed the following in pen and brown ink:
Snowdon Mountains while every House
crow usually [?Croaks]
there is no good of much sleep
Snowdon Mountain ravenous snow [?or ‘shore’]
[?melted] windy often
in Distress best is a relation
Transcribed by Mr Lloyd from Pennent [sic]
Thomas Pennant (1726–1798), of Penrhyn, near Bangor, a distinguished antiquary and naturalist, noted this poem in his Journey to Snowdon (1781).1 The somewhat enigmatic quotation, which is close to the literal transcription from the Welsh given by Pennant, may be associated with Turner’s thinking on the subject of the extermination of the Welsh bards, on which he planned two large watercolours, one of which he finished and showed at the Royal Academy in 1800 (Tate D04164; Turner Bequest LXX M), while the other exists only as an ébauche or sketch (Tate D04168; Turner Bequest LXX Q), along with some figure studies.

Andrew Wilton
May 2013

Thomas Pennant, ‘The Journey to Snowdon’ in A Tour in Wales, vol.II, London 1781, p.169.

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