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: 110 × 88 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CXI 18 a

Catalogue entry

Rosalind Mallord Turner’s reading of Turner’s inscription for the 1990 Tate exhibition is largely followed here:
And where Power if Power could prevail
That urges all our actions yet without avail
Give impulse to our thoughts Fancy sight
Wake us for what [= want] of other words
Stands as a word indefinite yet weak
For fancy is in infancy [but inserted] a mere caprice
In Manhood headstrong patron sways
Yet still we hardly call it Fancy form
That forces on our mental quality
To guide thus wrong & right others doubt
Can claim thy aid who dares to ask
What is imagination where its seat within
That lift the soals of some to soar beyond
The power of perception yet by perception
Of material forms and qualities feebly shown
To pursue the unknown force that razes all
Passions that makes the difference betwixt
The fool and he of sense the indownment
Given at our birth
For Turner’s poem on fancy and imagination drafted in this sketchbook, see Introduction and folios 95–92 verso (D07745–D077441).

David Blayney Brown
April 2011

Read full Catalogue entry

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