Joseph Mallord William Turner

Inscription by Turner: Poetry

1798–9

In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Artist
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Medium
Graphite on paper
Dimensions
Support: 174 × 125 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D41426

Catalogue entry

Inverted relative to the sketchbook’s foliation, lines of verse inscribed in pen and ink take up the whole page:
Tell me Babbling Echo why
Babbling Echo tell me why
You return me sigh for sigh
When I of Slighted Love complain
You delight to Mock my Pain
                     2
Bold intruder Night and Day
Busy telltale [‘censor’ inserted above] hence away
Me and my care in silence leave
Come not near me while I grieve
                     3                            charms
But should my Swain with all her
Return to Bless my longing arms
I’d call the [sic] from the dark retreat
The Joyfull tidings to repeat.
                     4
Repeat Repeat Repeat thy strain
Tell it o’er and o’er again
From Morn to Night prolong the tale
Let it ring from Vale to Vale
‘Babbling’ is also written the other way up at the bottom right, below the end of the last line.
Although some of the verses written out in this sketchbook are clearly copied from popular songs of the day, this may be Turner’s own attempt to write in the same idiom, as is suggested by the alternative phrases occasionally tried out here. However, these differing versions of some lines may be accounted for simply as mistranscriptions.
These passages are all inverted, and were presumably written working inwards from the back cover. See also folio 70 verso opposite (D41425), and folios 70 recto, 65 verso and recto, and 64 verso (D01815, D01805, D01804, D01803; Turner Bequest XLII 139, 130, 129, 128).

Andrew Wilton
March 2013

Read full Catalogue entry

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