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 100 a

Catalogue entry

The whole page is taken up with the following lines of verse:
The chieftain Tumuls and the vassals sword
Own the dread sway of death, tremendous Lord
On every side each hill or vantage ground
The awfull relics evry where abound
And feelingly its ancient prowess own
Though power and arms and carnage roam
Oer other lands yet still in silent pride
It looks around majestic tho decried
And useless now, so on the sea girt shore
Where Abbotbury cliffs beats back the watery roar [‘reecho to the roar’ inserted above]
Another guards the passage to the main
And on the right in land <a> [‘some’ inserted above] vestige yet remain1
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).
Having apparently mentioned ‘Graves’ near Dorset’s Iron Age Maiden Castle at the end of the previous passage on folio 98 verso (D08550; CXXIII 95a), Turner here describes ancient burial mounds or tumuli in the surrounding landscape, many of which remain indicated on modern maps. He next mentions Abbotsbury, towards the north-west end of Chesil Beach, which he had described on folio 68 verso (D08493; CXXIII 65a). Abbotsbury is listed as a potential Southern Coast subject on folio 5 recto (D08370; Turner Bequest CXXIII 5) and he may have passed through the village on his way between Weymouth – see under folio 68 verso (D08493; CXXIII 65a) – and Bridport, the subject of the next passage of poetry on folio 105 verso (D08563; CXXIII 102a).

Matthew Imms
June 2011

See transcriptions (followed here with slight variations) in Lindsay 1966, p.116, as part of ‘Maiden Castle and Barrows’, section (m) of poem no.50, ‘On the Western Itinerary 1811’, and Wilton and Turner 1990, p.173; previously transcribed with variations in Thornbury 1862, II, pp.25–6 and 1897, p.214.

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