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 174 a

Catalogue entry

The whole page is taken up with the following lines of verse:
Alas [‘so’ inserted above] soon the high raised Nelsonian star
Should extension suffer and gory Trafalgar
With all thy well [?‘earne’, i.e. ‘earned’] glorys <...> written on
In brotherhood bereft of Heaven a son
In gracious powr [‘long’ inserted above] shed for some wise end
Deprives to him which the [?best deign] to send
The scourge of Europe hence exults unseen
In deep futurity on this Island green
Obstructions gives and shorten his repose
In rancourous hate implacable serve
The lash recoiling gives a lash to fear
A nation prowess by untimely laws
Is weakend not Enforced while just appause [i.e. ‘applause’]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 previous passage, on folio 174 verso (D08689; CXXIII 171a), considers death and glory, apparently concerning Napoleon and Admiral Lord Nelson, referred to specifically here in relation to his victory and death in 1805 as commemorated in Turner’s oil The Battle of Trafalgar, as Seen from the Mizen Starboard Shrouds of the Victory, first exhibited in 1806 (Tate N00480).2
Judy Egerton has described these lines as ‘impassioned’, if ‘unpolished’,3 and Robert Upstone has noted that the verses between here and folio 182 verso (D08701; CXXIII 179a) clearly demonstrate ‘Turner’s deep-seated patriotism and inherently anti-French attitude’4 during the Napoleonic Wars. Jan Piggott has observed that ‘“scourge” was a common epithet’ for Napoleon, and that Turner’s phrase ‘rancorous hate implacable’ may echo Milton’s characterisation of Satan in Paradise Lost:5 ‘the unconquerable will, | And study of revenge, immortal hate’ (Book I).

Matthew Imms
June 2011

See Wilton and Turner 1990, p.175 (transcription, followed here with slight variations).
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, p.46 no.58, pl.68 (colour).
Egerton, Wyld and Roy 1995, p.70.
Upstone 1990, p.54.
Piggott 2005, p.7.

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