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 92 a

Catalogue entry

Rosalind Mallord Turner’s reading of Turner’s inscription for the 1990 Tate exhibition is largely followed here:
Thus by analogy we judge of effects
Of causes which we know are true and thus
Show triumphs [ever inserted] by investigation [that may deleted]
Which when brought to the point at issue
Then always yet has fled the trial who then
Can hope to be successful in thy cause ingrate
To many far more powerfull and wise
Could Raleigh linger out so many years
In a damp prison in thy service prone
Had once thought of such a doom he suffered
Live as show his manly mind or thought that
Then mere Caprice in balance part to all
His worth generous, brave, complaint would quell
The pity or the justice of a Prince he serve
So nobly ‘No’ he dyed his History with his death
That Englands armies never can wash out
Even with Fancy’s utmost tears to come
This passage seems to conclude the poem on fancy and imagination written running back through the sketchbook from folio 95 (D07745). Turner ends with a vision of Sir Walter Ralegh, introduced on folio 94 (D07744) with other voyagers and adventurers led astray by fanciful delusions, writing his History of the World (1614) in prison. Partly to earn royal favour, Ralegh led a voyage to Guiana (now Venezuela) in search of gold in 1595, and claimed to have discovered ‘Eldorado’. He was imprisoned in the Tower for alleged treason by James I, 1603–16, released to repeat his search for gold and imprisoned again when the voyage proved a disaster. He was executed in 1618. His History, written in prison, was initially intended for Henry, Prince of Wales.
Turner sees Raleigh’s book, written in defiance of tyranny and neglect, as redemptive, and perhaps ‘by analogy’ as an artist’s riposte to his critics.

David Blayney Brown
May 2011

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