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 25

Catalogue entry

The whole page is taken up with lines of poetry:
Directs, enforces, threats & pray
[deleted word overwritten] Orates and chids and fears delay
Looks with most anxious eyes to fame
And thinks that he can grasp the dame
All ready, ready let her go
Long as the Thames shall flow
May thou be blest my dear Argo
All ready, ready every one replies
O Goddess hear my ardent sighs
Swift as an arrow from a bow
“She goes she goes” then let her go
Long as the Thames shall flow
O Goddess bless the ship Argo
Argo be blest the strain [overwriting an illegible word] resound
Argo be blest the shores rebound
Even Echo murmured Argo long
But dire mischance she broke the thong
Most carefull care had thought so strong
Crash – tackles block fell on the deck1
This is the penultimate 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 24 recto (D07392). For a concordance of the extensive passages of poetry in this book, see the sketchbook Introduction.
Discussing Turner’s love of sailing on the Thames, even suggesting that Turner himself might have had a boat called the ‘Argo’, Anthony Bailey quotes the passage from the fifth line to the thirteenth, as ‘[i]ngenuously but touchingly’ expressing this spirit.2
See Wilton and Turner 1990, p.164 (transcription, followed here with slight variations); see also Lindsay 1966, pp.68–9 (transcription with minor variations); and Omer 1975, p.698, quoting last three lines following Lindsay’s reading.
Bailey 1997, p.95.

Matthew Imms
June 2008

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