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
D08702
Turner Bequest CXXIII 180

Catalogue entry

The whole page is taken up with the following lines of verse:
crashing falls the mast beneath the blow
and [?bearing] along the hostile ensign’s fo
The shattered hull rolls dreadfull drinks
Deep [overwriting ‘<?And>’] at her many wounds, she sinks
above below tho all her trusted crew
still for existance Evil to eschew
Then the bold seamen enemies no more
Ply round the sinking ship the busy oar
Incessant acting what their noble hearts [?‘soul’ or ‘sigh’]
Rich with humanty [i.e. ‘humanity’] swells high
Thus in that horrid night on Egypts <strand> shore
Heard the shrill [?scrack] and hostile cannon roar
Flashing amidst the darkness till anon
Rising in blood staind vests the waning moon
gleaming athwart Aboukir[s] narrow bay
Tho smoke and carnage victory dreadfull way1
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).
In the previous passage, on folio 182 verso opposite (D08701; CXXIII 179a), Turner imagines the sight of a monument to Admiral Lord Nelson, killed at Trafalgar in 1805, and describes a naval battle, which continues here. Aboukir Bay, on the coast of Egypt, was the scene of Nelson’s victory over the French in 1798, the subject of Turner’s lost painting Battle of the Nile, at 10 o’clock when the L’Orient Blew Up, from the Station of the Gun Boats between the Battery and Castle of Aboukir, exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1799.2 The next lines, on the verso of the present leaf (D08703; CXXIII 180a), refer to his death at Trafalgar.

Matthew Imms
June 2011

1
See Wilton and Turner 1990, pp.175–6 (transcription, followed here with slight variations).
2
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, pp.7–8 no.10.

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