Joseph Mallord William Turner

Inscription by Turner: Draft of Poetry


Not on display

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Pen and ink on paper
Support: 75 × 117 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CXXIII 57 a

Catalogue entry

The whole page is taken up with the following lines of verse:
disjointed mases breaking fast away
Till the sad [?‘mews’ or ‘news’] [?grows] [‘and’ inserted above] <of> the sway
of <the> wintry billows foaming oer
In fell succession waves incessant roar
Denying all approach ah haples they
Who from mischanc [?reaches] means [?convey]
Or jutting headland for another takes
For Natures jealous has allowed no breaks
Of streams or vally sloping save but one
And there she still presents a breast of stone
Above all downs where press the nibbling sheep
Below the sea mew full possession keep1
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).
As noted in the entry for the previous passage of verse, on folio 58 verso (D08474; CXXIII 56a), Turner refers here to the wreck of the East Indiaman Halsewell near St Aldhelm’s Head in Dorset in 1786. On folio 61 recto opposite (D08479; CXXIII 58) he moves on to Lulworth Cove, a few miles to the west. The fourth word of the second line is given by Wilton and Turner (following Thornbury) as ‘news’, but the first letter seems to be ‘m’, possibly making it ‘mews’ (sea gulls), as per the last line.

Matthew Imms
June 2011

See Wilton and Turner 1990, p.171 (transcription, followed here with slight variations); previously transcribed with variations in Thornbury 1862, II, pp.21–2 and 1897, p.210.

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