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
Pen and ink on paper
Dimensions
Support: 115 × 88 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D07379
Turner Bequest CVIII 14

Catalogue entry

Almost the whole page is taken up with lines of poetry:
Nor urge my hand to catch a fly
So careless so indifferent am I
Whatever passes pass it may
No moment urge the rising lay
The wind it is too high too scant
Tis [Lindsay: Fro] East or North not what I want
The sails they give me so much trouble
And what is pleasure [‘sailing’ inserted above] but a bubble
When set I wish they were unfurld
And fain would give een all a World
A World of indifference I think
Nature dame [Lindsay: denies] Nature hold each link
In the great chain that is a Zone
Where cause and its effect are one1
This is the last passage of a poem (‘O apathy unfriendly power’) which runs over five pages from folio 8 recto (D07368); the previous section is on folio 13 recto (D07378). For a concordance of the extensive passages of poetry in this book, see the sketchbook Introduction.
John Gage has compared the view of pleasure as a bubble with similar lines about ‘the bubble Pleasure | which Bursts in his Grasp or [?flies]’, in the earlier Salisbury sketchbook (Tate D40772; Turner Bequest XLIX, inside front cover), as a characteristic Turnerian image of ‘fallacious hope’.2

Matthew Imms
June 2008

1
See Wilton and Turner 1990, p.163 (transcription, followed here with slight variations); previously transcribed with slight variations in Lindsay 1966, p.124.
2
John Gage, Colour in Turner: Poetry and Truth, London 1969, pp.186, 267 note 205.

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