Joseph Mallord William Turner

Inscription by Turner: Draft of Poetry


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
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 24

Catalogue entry

The whole page is taken up with lines of poetry:
The cross and Union sympathize
And wide oer all thy banner flies
Of fam’d St George of sanguine hue
Whose tenchant sword the dragon slew
Waved oer the field of maiden white
Thy crimson cross appear more bright
The humbled pride of Gallic chance
The boasted triple flag of France
Batavia since she now must groan
And painted Liberty but not her own
Iberia flag tho now as an ally
In equal portions meet each pleased eye
In dazzeling folds and rich as Flodden Field
Not in gay [overwriting ‘its’] <ensign> [‘colors’ inserted above] could the pagent yield
And now the Gun flashes tho [sic] the air
Its thundering voice prepare prepare
Remove the shore that hence her weight
May not upon the Shears so great
Bind all the Ropes more tackel have
That may perhaps her honor save
Where ever danger most appears
There the chief artificer steers1
In reading the fifth line from the end, Wilton and Turner give the fifth word as ‘shrouds’ (part of a mast’s rigging), but it appears to be ‘Shears’, indicating an inverted-V framework from which tackle is hung to assist in raising heavy components or equipment.2
This is the fifth passage of a poem (‘Must toiling Man for ever meet disgrace’) which runs over seven pages from folio 20 recto (D07388) up to folio 26 recto (D07394); the previous section is on folio 23 recto (D07391), and it continues on folio 25 recto (D07393). For a concordance of the extensive passages of poetry in this book, see the sketchbook Introduction.
James Hamilton, quoting the last four lines from the previous leaf (folio 23; D07391) and the first eight here, notes Turner’s patriotism and ‘fashionable anti-French sentiments’3 in the context of the ongoing Napoleonic Wars. In quoting some of the descriptions of the flags, Jack Lindsay has observed ‘a certain unity of conception up to this point’ in celebrating the craft and creativity of shipbuilding, but feels Turner ‘grows impatient’ as the poem ‘slithers into doggerel’ and becomes ‘more mocking’.4
See Wilton and Turner 1990, p.164 (transcription, followed here with slight variations).
‘Shear, n.1 ([definition] 4)’, OED Online, accessed 13 May 2008,
Hamilton 2003, p.99.
Lindsay 1966, p.68 (transcribing intermittent lines).

Matthew Imms
June 2008

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