Joseph Mallord William Turner

Inscription by Turner: Draft of Poetry

1811

Not on display

Artist
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Medium
Pen and ink on paper
Dimensions
Support: 75 × 117 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D08401
Turner Bequest CXXIII 21

Catalogue entry

The whole page is taken up with the following lines of verse:
<Is this the Scandinavian theory true
That the great spirit rests not>
If then my ardent love of thee is said with truth
Alexis and the demolition of thy House forsooth
Broke thro the [‘all’ inserted above] trammels doubts and gingling [‘some say’ inserted above] rhyme
[?‘Tost’ or ‘Roll’] into being
Has leagued and cheerd since that fatal time
   Lead me along with thy armonuous verse
Teach me thy numbers and thy style rehearse
Throughout the lingering nights careers to stand
And [?sunny] incidents to write by Natures hand
The passing moments of a chequered life to give
To cheer [‘find’ inserted below] a moments pleasure that we live1
Interspersed with drawings and the printed pages of Coltman’s British Itinerary, sixty-nine pages of this sketchbook are given over wholly or partly to these verses which Turner intended as a commentary for publication with the Picturesque Views on the Southern Coast of England which he sketched on the 1811 West Country tour (see the introduction to the sketchbook). The first lines are on folio 18 verso (D08396), and the last on folio 207 verso (D08736; CXXIII 204a). The previous passage is opposite, on folio 20 verso (D08400).
The first two lines have been crossed out with a single large ‘X’, and seem to be a theological digression from the main theme, musing on the destruction of the poet Alexander Pope’s villa by the Thames at Twickenham, running on from folio 20 verso, and discussed in more detail in the catalogue entry for that page. Turner seems to be invoking inspiration for his Southern Coast poem, as well as introducing a typical thought on the transitory nature of life, continued for a further couplet in the next passage, on folio 23 verso (D08405). Wilton and Turner suggest the ‘incidents’ towards the end are ‘sunny’, while Lindsay’s reading is ‘dewy’.

Matthew Imms
June 2011

1
See transcriptions (followed here with slight variations) in Lindsay 1966, pp.108–9, lines eight to thirteen as part of ‘To James Thomson’, section (b) of poem no.50, ‘On the Western Itinerary 1811’, and Wilton and Turner 1990, p.170; previously transcribed with variations in Thornbury 1862, II, p.17 and 1897, pp.205–6.

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