Joseph Mallord William Turner

Evening (Datur Hora Quieti), for Rogers’s ‘Poems’


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Watercolour on paper
Support: 242 × 308 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCLXXX 199

Display caption

The view depicted here has so far not been identified, and may well be fanciful, for the subject is really concerned with the mood associated with a specific time of day. Turner's title invokes the early evening when the horses are liberated from the plough and the shadows begin to lengthen.

Gallery label, September 1995

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Catalogue entry

This vignette, Datur hora quieti, serves as the cul-de-lampe, or final tail-piece, to the entire volume of the 1834 edition of Rogers’s Poems.1 It was engraved by Edward Goodall and it is the only illustration in Poems to be printed with a title, although it does not directly reflect a specific poem.2 The Latin phrase ‘Datur hora quieti’ translates as ‘An hour given to quiet’ and therefore acts as an appropriate conclusion to the publication. Furthermore, it may be a reference to a poem of the same title by the famous Scottish author, Sir Walter Scott (1771–1832).3 Scott’s verses begin with a description of a sun setting over a lake and it may have been this which set the context for Turner’s scene of a rural summer evening:
The sun upon the lake is low,
The wild birds hush their song,
The hills have evening’s deepest glow,
Yet Leonard tarries long.
Now all whom varied toil and care
From home and love divide,
In the calm sunset may repair
Each to the loved one’s side.
Adele Holcomb has also suggested that the textual basis for the vignette can be found in lines from Rogers’s ‘Human Life’ in Poems:4
... ’Tis the sixth hour
The village-clock strikes from the distant tower.
The ploughman leaves the field; the traveller hears.
And to the inn spurs forward. Nature wears
Her sweetest smile; the day-star in the west
Yet hovering
(Poems, p.92)
These verses in turn recall the pastoral themes found in the poetry of James Thomson (1700–48), particularly the celebration of the plough in ‘Spring’ from The Seasons.5 Turner greatly admired Thomson and frequently used quotations from his poetry to accompany his oil paintings. Furthermore, his own attempts at writing verse are heavily influenced by the Scottish writer’s work.
Generally, however, Datur Hora Quieti is a generalised view that is meant to complement the overall tone and content of Rogers’s poetry rather than adhere to a specific line of text. In a similar manner to another illustration, A Garden, which serves as the frontispiece to Poems (see Tate D27679; Turner Bequest CCLXXX 162), Turner’s tranquil imaginary landscape echoes Rogers call for his reader to leave the bustling world to enter instead the realm of art and poetry. The illustration pays homage to one of Turner’s artistic models, Claude Lorrain and the classical landscape tradition. The meandering river and undulating hills, as well as details such as the arched bridge, the distant ruins, and the use of trees as framing devices, all refer to established conventions of Western landscape painting. In the foreground, Turner has included signs of agrarian life, including several cattle and a plough.
Samuel Rogers, Poems, London 1834, p.296.
W.G. Rawlinson, The Engraved Work of J.M.W. Turner, R.A., vol.II, London 1913, no.405. There are two impressions in Tate’s collection (T05132 and T05133).
The poem appears at the front of Scott’s play, ‘The Doom of Devergoil’, The Poetical Works of Sir Walter Scott, vol.XII, Edinburgh 1848, p.122.
Holcomb 1966, p.103.
Ibid., p.103
Cook and Wedderburn (eds.) 1903–12, vol.XIII, p.380.

Meredith Gamer
August 2006

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