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 61 a

Catalogue entry

The whole page is taken up with the following lines of verse:
But here no depth of water even at tide
allows what Nature all around has thrown
While great [overwriting illegible smudged phrase] profuseness here alone is stone
Along the south and west no creeks appear
No.. bay or harbours labouring eyes to cheer
Who vain watching throng the creaking shrouds
And [‘when’ inserted above] night and darkness mix the gloomy clouds
Chaotic warfare [‘when’ inserted above] surges tell [?aloud]
The trembling pilot to beware nor hold
an onward course [?een] while the cable holds
the struggling ship her bows unto the wind
Nor rush on danger [?by] the hope to find
Upon the iron coast the Portland race1
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 lines, on the recto of this leaf (D08484; CXXIII 61), describe the quarries of Dorset’s Isle of Portland; here the dangerous waters known as the Portland Race, a confluence of strong currents off Portland Bill at the southern tip of the island, are considered.2 The first line of the next passage, on folio 68 verso (D08493; CXXIII 65a), ‘No hope amongst direfull reefs a resting place’, follows on from the last line here; nearby Chesil Beach and Weymouth are then described.

Matthew Imms
June 2011

See transcriptions (followed here with slight variations) in Lindsay 1966, p.113, from the end of the third line onwards as part of ‘Portland and Melcombe Sands’, section (j) of poem no.50, ‘On the Western Itinerary 1811’, and Wilton and Turner 1990, p.172; first three lines given in Milner 1990, p.38; previously transcribed with variations in Thornbury 1862, II, p.23 and 1897, p.211.
See Paul Whittall, ‘Flood Tide in the Race’, The Heritage Coast, accessed 4 January 2011,

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