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
D08624
Turner Bequest CXXIII 135 a

Catalogue entry

The whole page is taken up with the following lines of verse:
And call aloud to those who ply the strand
With siens all ready for the pilchard soon
Awaits his orders but the high born noon
That bid so fair <...> is sudden wrapt in gloom
Harsh sounds the wind and in the grim S. West
The Welkin looks in gloomy mantle drest
The [?‘sickning’ or ‘sinking’] sun by slow dgrees grow wan
And scarce a shadow gives or shines on man
The [?man prognostic] sudden heaves on high
A grand swell calm and rolling ply1
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).
Wilton and Turner relate the first lines here and the preceding passage on folio 135 verso to Turner’s various views of the pilchard catch at St Mawes (see under folio 136 recto; D08620; CXXIII 133);2 although St Mawes is not mentioned specifically, this may be the case, or similar scenes may have been witnessed elsewhere as Turner travelled through Cornwall – the earlier lines on folio 135 verso refer to St Michael’s Mount, well to the west of St Mawes. A poetic word for the sky, ‘welkin’ was used before, on folio 130 verso (D08610; CXXIII 127a), where the sun was also described as ‘wan’, as it would be in Turner’s verse caption to his painting Snow Storm, Hannibal and his Army Crossing the Alps, exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1812 (Tate N00490).3 ‘Welkin’ appears once more on folio 159 verso (D08661; CXXIII 156a).
The next passage, on folio 140 verso (D08627; CXXIII 137a), considers the difficulties of navigating the rocky Cornish coast.
1
See Wilton and Turner 1990, p.174 (transcription, followed here with slight variations).
2
Wilton and Turner 1990, pp.143–4.
3
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, pp.88–90 no.126, pl.131 (colour).
Technical notes:
The two uncertain words in the penultimate line are affected by a heavy blot.

Matthew Imms
June 2011

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