Joseph Mallord William Turner

Inscription by Turner: Draft of Poetry

c.1809

In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Artist
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Medium
Graphite and pen and ink on paper
Dimensions
Support: 115 x 88 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D07368
Turner Bequest CVIII 8

Catalogue entry

Turner has inscribed ‘the same person’ in pencil, running vertically down the right-hand side of the page relative to the main inscription, for which he turned the book. The phrase is the conclusion of the note ‘see if Lamatius is’ on folio 7 verso opposite (D07367).
The rest of the page is taken up with lines of poetry:
[‘O’ blotted or deleted] apathy unfriendly [Lindsay: untimely] power
Tho foe to merits brightest hour
Sure no genial ray of morn
Eer glimmerd when thou wast born
The vernal earth the nature hue
Where [?they/cherry] bloom in rankest hue
That clog the soil or sterile clay
Where weeds not blossom eer display
Then cheery drink the sunny ray
But darkest vapour dewy blight
More dreary than the darkest night
Attuned at thy birth arrayed
And nature’s self appear dismaid
And dread[?ed] feard that half her race
Would feel thy [blank] and disgrace
What pregnance could help thy birth
To give a [?balmy home] on earth
But dischord as she strayd1
This is the first passage of a poem which runs over five pages to folio 14 recto (D07379); it continues on folio 9 recto (D07370). Jack Lindsay has seen the whole poem as symptomatic of an ‘emotional and intellectual crisis’ for Turner at this time, with a ‘sense of despair and disillusion’.2 For a concordance of the extensive passages of poetry in this book, see the sketchbook Introduction.

Matthew Imms
June 2008

1
See Wilton and Turner 1990, p.163 (transcription, followed here with slight variations); lines one to four and thirteen previously transcribed with slight variations in Lindsay 1966, p.123.
2
Lindsay 1966, p.123.

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