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 64 a

Catalogue entry

Rosalind Mallord Turner’s reading of Turner’s inscription for the 1990 Tate exhibition is largely followed here:
For ever Philomena whose powers admits the sway
Or why so many lunatics who shriek and scorn
And boldly condemn and loud decry
All those who pray so fervent or devout
Think perhaps more rationally and just
That the extend[ed] gate of mercy not deny’d
To those who Err or ask a Williams’ fate
Outcast with misery the felon
Who tho all the course of the law parts
Een at the last faint glimpse of hope
Hopes with a steady firmness and Views
The ignominious scaffold hand in hand
Upon his last breath to Fancy’d hopes & fear[s]
And in the most unfeigned merit of his birth
Gives that a disgrace to all before
A Solemn benediction to the crowd who press
By tho overwhelming powers to behold
Thy great grasp of human misery
This passage seems to be related to the poem contrasting fancy and imagination written running backwards through the sketchbook on folios 95 verso–92 verso (D07745–D07741). That poem closes with a vision of Sir Walter Ralegh in prison but stops short of his execution for treason. Here Turner considers the failure of hope, anticipating the fragments of his supposed epic The Fallacies of Hope first published in 1812. Citing these lines, Andrew Wilton notes ‘extensive drafts [which] may be regarded as parallel enterprises, and even perhaps as preliminary ébauches for the Fallacies’.1

David Blayney Brown
May 2011

Wilton and Mallord Turner 1990, p.65.

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