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 179 a

Catalogue entry

The whole page is taken up with the following lines of verse:
Binding in one generous emolument the Sailor mind
In action dreadfull in his last moments kind
Seen far a sea a tear bright to those
To beating the drum [?eer] sighing for repose
With locks bedecked with brave spray borne
and to [...] worth [...] storm
Unlike his mastman [?security] in the smoke
Whose long last action gravely great with weeping eye
Bespeak a naval [?prowess] [...] defy
Yet ever ready when the threatning storm shall rage
Tis above that the thundring cannon roar
Then murdrous guns send with resounding air
[?Blank] deep in hostile plank, have [?shed] in gore
The stubborn Man and his country bore1
This tentative reading follows Wilton and Turner’s; the lines are barely legible in places.
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 179 verso (D08696; CXXIII 176a), advocates a prominent coastal monument for Admiral Lord Nelson, killed at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, and here imagines seeing it from the sea. He then pictures a naval engagement, possibly Trafalgar itself, although the earlier Battle of the Nile is referred to in the next lines, on folio 183 recto opposite (D08702; CXXIII 180). Robert Upstone has noted that the verses between folio 177 verso (D08693; CXXIII 174a) and here clearly demonstrate ‘Turner’s deep-seated patriotism and inherently anti-French attitude’2 during the Napoleonic Wars.

Matthew Imms
June 2011

See Wilton and Turner 1990, p.175 (transcription, followed here with slight variations).
Upstone 1990, p.54.

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