Joseph Mallord William Turner

Inscription by Turner: Draft of Poetry


Not on display

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 75 × 117 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CXXIII 171 a

Catalogue entry

The whole page is taken up with the following lines of verse:
Hangs having bloomd sheds upon the bear [i.e. ‘bier’]
of fallen greatness its last fragrant tear
[an illegible word inserted between these lines]
Lost oer the first and ask if little pride
Can stand the contest by fair minds side
[another, almost illegible, variation on the previous line]
Rang all their power even so and bright
[?There ...]
Alas that might reward for merit tried
Should give the means of [?losing & ...] pride
Should longer thy house [?abuses]1
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 tentative reading above follows Wilton and Turner’s; the lines are barely more legible than those in the previous passage, on folio 172 verso (D08685; CXXIII 169a), which deals with elevated themes of death and glory, apparently with reference to Napoleon and Admiral Lord Nelson, continued here. The next lines, on folio 177 verso (D08693; CXXIII 174a), make specific mention of Nelson, the main focus of the rest of the poem.

Matthew Imms
June 2011

See Wilton and Turner 1990, p.175 (transcription, followed here with slight variations).

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