Joseph Mallord William Turner

Inscription by Turner: Draft of Poetry


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

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Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Pen and ink on paper
Support: 115 × 88 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
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

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

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