Joseph Mallord William Turner

Verses (Inscription by Turner)


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 107 × 182 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest XCVII 83 a

Catalogue entry

Written with the sketchbook inverted. Only partly published by Finberg, Turner’s verses were transcribed in full by Rosalind Mallord Turner, whose reading is followed here:
Discord dire Sister of Ethereal Jove
Coeval hostile even to heavenly love
Ranckling with rage, unask[ed] the feast to share
For Psyche marriage rites divinly fair
Rush’d like noxious blast of wintry skies
O’er the [guardian] Hesperian garden rise
The far stretch dragon in himself a host
Aw’d by her presence, slumber’d at his post
The timid sisters, fear’d her vengfull ire
Profferd the fatal fruit & ate prophetic fire
With wrongful pleasure, the golden apple took
Love felt the wound and Troy’s foundation shook
What mischief would insue; The Goddess heard
With warm pleasure then her choice preferred
The shiny mischief so wisely thou took
Love felt the wound &Troys foundations shook
[written at side of page]
At Psyche marriage feast to share striving to
Revenge our love of the fair
This is a longer version of the verses on the recto (D06164), and of the similar but more polished and condensed ‘Ode to Discord’ in Turner’s Verse Book (private collection):1
Discord dire sister of Etherial Jove
Coeval hostile even to heavenly love
Unasked at Psyche’s bridal feast to share
Mad with neglect and envious of the fair
Fierce as the noxious blast thou cleav’d the skies
And sought the Hesperian garden golden prize
The Guardian Dragon in himself an host
Aw’d by thy presence slumber’d at his post
With vengeful pleasure pleas’d the Goddess heard
Of future woes and then her choice preferred
The shiny mischief to herself she took
Love felt the wound and Troy’s foundations shook
Turner must have intended the ‘Ode’ as an epigraph for his picture The Goddess of Discord Choosing the Apple of Contention in the Garden of the Hesperides (Tate N00477)2 shown at the British Institution in 1806, although it was not published in the catalogue of the exhibition. In Turner’s own reworking of classical myth, the picture shows Discord choosing the apple that will eventually be awarded by Paris to the goddess Aphrodite and lead to the Trojan War and the fall of Troy. Thus it looks forward to the Judgement of Paris while, as Nicholson explains,3 conflating two other distinct stories: of Discord, annoyed at her exclusion from the festivities at the wedding of Peleus and Thetis, throwing an apple inscribed ‘to the fairest’ into their midst; and of Hercules seeking the golden apples in the Garden of the Hesperides as one of his labours. Turner’s Hesperidean garden is also a combination, of pictures by Nicolas Poussin that he had seen in Paris in 18024 and his recollections of the Alps from the same year. As a realm of Arcadian innocence threatened by human folly it is partly classical Greek but also Judaeo-Christian, evoking Eden and the Biblical Fall. John Gage5 notes Turner’s association of the Apples of the Hesperides and those of the Tree of Knowledge and the similarity of the last two lines of Turner’s ‘Ode’ to John Milton’s account of Eve plucking the Apple in Paradise Lost, Book 9:

David Blayney Brown
December 2009

Wilton and Mallord Turner 1990, pp.40, 149–50.
Butlin and Joll 1984, pp.44–6 no.57 (pl.67).
Nicholson 1990, p.76.
See the Studies in the Louvre sketchbook (Tate D04275–D04390; Turner Bequest LXXII).
John Gage, Colour in Turner: Poetry and Truth, London 1969, p.137.
Butlin and Joll 1984, p.18 no.19 (pl.15).
Ibid., p.82 no.115 (pl.119).
Gage 1969, pp.136–7; John Gage, J.M.W. Turner:‘A Wonderful Range of Mind’, New Haven and London 1987, p.127.
Wilton in Wilton and Mallord Turner 1990, p.132.
Anne Lyles, ‘Loutherbourg, Philippe Jacques de (1740–1812)’, in Evelyn Joll, Martin Butlin and Luke Herrmann eds., The Oxford Companion to J.M.W. Turner, Oxford 2001, p.180.
Butlin and Joll 1984, pp.71–2 no.100 (pl.105).
Felicity Owen and David Blayney Brown, Collector of Genius: A Life of Sir George Beaumont, New Haven and London 1988, p.154.
For Beaumont on Turner, ibid., pp.152–3, 155–6, 164–5.
Joseph Farington, Diary, 5 April 1806, in Butlin and Joll 1984, p.45.
As first suggested by Owen and Blayney Brown 1988, p.166 and most recently by Ian Warrell, “‘Stolen hints from celebrated Pictures”: Turner as Copyist, Collector and Consumer of Old Master Paintings’, in David Solkin ed., Turner and the Masters, exhibition catalogue, Tate Britain, London 2009, p.47.

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