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 93

Catalogue entry

Rosalind Mallord Turner’s reading of Turner’s inscription for the 1990 Tate exhibition is largely followed here:
Or forcing its way majestic proud and bold
Fortifying grandeur with all the full form showed
Of Abessinian beauties like the Hesperedes of old
Attending [all inserted] to charm its labours irrigating earth
Whose odoriferous sweets perfumes each gale
[And sell deleted] by creating delights like to Mahomets heaven
All provd but a dream cleared of the mist
That thou for many an age had hung around
The source at last he saw and thy deceit
Look’d down with wonder on the tepid pool
And shed his baffled sense but to dispurse [divest deleted]
The cloud which wrecks and gives uncertainty form
Space imprinting of folly clear to sense
Does but a generall good, and hence we know
That Nilas and the Thames [Niger inserted] but bubbles into day
And feel content that they should be so
Without further search yet to compress
By cold something good can from trifles flow
Would be greatest extreme far from good
Witness the various accidents that have caused
The deepest, wisest most profound of search
The laws of Gravity thou assisted to inspire
And hangs yet fondly o’er its beam pristine
The first great cause cannot be ascertained
These passages continue the poem on fancy and imagination begun on folio 95 of the sketchbook (D07745). The lines on the Nile seem to progress from those on the river and its explorer James Bruce on folio 94 (D07744) and the verso (D07743).

David Blayney Brown
May 2011

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