Joseph Mallord William Turner

Verses: ‘A Reckoning with Time’, after George Colman (Inscription by Turner)


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 187 x 118 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856

Catalogue entry

This poem is continued on folio 1 (D41429). For convenience the whole text is given here, below, based with minor changes on the reading made by Rosalind Mallord Turner at the time of the 1990 Tate exhibition and first published in its catalogue; this superseded Finberg’s less accurate transcription which, in any case, only covered the first five stanzas.
Come Oh Time nay that is stuff
Gaffer, thou comest on fast enough
Wing’d foe to feathered cupid
But tell me Sandman ere thy train
Have multiplied upon my brains
So thick to make me stupid
Tell me Death’s Journeyman: but no
Hear [me deleted] thou my speech spoil not grow
Incumbant while I try it
For though I mock my flight tis said
Thy forelocks fill me with such dread
I never take thee by it
List then old is was and then to be
I’ll state accounts twixt me and thee
Thou gave me 1st the measles
With teething would have taken me off
Then mad’st me with the Hooping cough
Thinner than 50 weasles
Thou gav’st smallpox the dragon now
That Jenner combats in a cow
& then some seeds of knowledge
grains of grammar, which the trails
of pedants thrash upon our tails
To fit us for a college
& when at Christ Church twas thy sport
To rack my brains with sloe juice port
& Lectures out of number
There fresh men Folly, quaffs & sings
While graduate Dullness clogs thy wings
With Mathematic lumber
[continued on folio 1, D41429]
Thy pinions next which while they [gave deleted] wave
Fan all our birth days to the grave
I think ere it was prudent
Ballooned me from the schools for town
Where I was parachuted down
A Dapper Temple Student
Then much in Dramas did I look
Much slighted thee and great Lord Coke
Congreve beat Blackstone hollow
Shakespeare made all the statues stale
And in my crown no pleas had Haled
To supersede Apollo.
So Time, those raging heats I find
Were the mere dog star of my mind
Howe cool is retro[s]pection
Youth gaudy [Summer inserted] Solstice –oer
Experience yields a mellow store
an autumn of reflection
Why did I let me [lure deleted] God of Song
Lure me from Law to join this throng
galed by some slight applauses
What arises to a when B
or what, John Bull a Comedy
To pleading ditto Causes

David Blayney Brown
May 2006

Wilton and Mallord Turner 1990, p.127.
The author is grateful to Steve Hare for his comments on this point.

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