Joseph Mallord William Turner

Inscription by Turner: Draft of Poetry


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

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 75 x 117 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CXXIII 169 a

Catalogue entry

The whole page is taken up with lines of verse,1 often faint and faded and made more difficult to read by the printed text showing through from the recto (D08684; CXXIII 169). The following transcription is necessarily tentative; for clarity, apart from ellipses for completely illegible words or phrases, no question marks are used for doubtful readings, although many words are half-legible and others are guesses within the context:
Within the ever teeming roll of Fame
Read deep and [...] upon each revered name
[...] could the boast H[...]d [...] claim
As by [...] [‘when’ inserted above] wed takes honors chain
Love [...] the ever sh[...] roll
To M[...] ever open to whose soul
[...] the [...] that [...] thinks
Those eager after glory [...] drinks the exh[...] draught
[...] un[...]ble [...] ny good [...]
[...] do ever meet [...]
[...] thy glory [...] care [...] bought
To death by life that [...] was forced to spare
In vision and death [...] Morpheus share
And others to come all w[...] that [...] expose
And honor bloomg true as bending rose
Interspersed with drawings and the printed pages of Coltman’s British Itinerary, sixty-nine pages of this sketchbook are given over wholly or partly to these verses which Turner intended as a commentary for publication with the Picturesque Views on the Southern Coast of England which he sketched on the 1811 West Country tour (see the introduction to the sketchbook). The first lines are on folio 18 verso (D08396), and the last on folio 207 verso (D08736; CXXIII 204a).
The previous passage, on folio 169 verso (D08679; CXXIII 166a), is an image of the childhoods of great men, apparently Napoleon and Lord Nelson in particular. Here, as far as can be made out, Turner muses on death and glory. Morpheus was the Greek god of dreams. The next lines, on folio 174 verso (D08689; CXXIII 171a), continue the theme.

Matthew Imms
June 2011

Noted in Wilton and Turner 1990, p.175, as ‘15 lines of illegible pencil draft’.

Read full Catalogue entry