Joseph Mallord William Turner

Verses (Inscriptions by Turner)


Not on display

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 198 × 163 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest LXXVIII

Catalogue entry

Turner’s inscription reads:
I am a friar of Orders Grey
Down in the valley I take my way
I pull a blackberry thorn or hip
Good store of venison fills my scrip.
My long bead roll I merrily chant
Wherever I go no money I want
A cheerful cup is my Matin song
And the Vespers bell is a bowl, ding-dong.
Then after supper of heaven I dream
But that is a fat pullet and clout’d cream.
By self denial I mortify
With a dainty bit of a warden by.
I am cloath’d in sackcloth for my sins
With old sack wine I am lin’d within
No lord or squire or knight of the Shire
Lives half so well as a holy Friar
This famous old ballad, supposedly sung by Friar Tuck, exists in a number of versions. It was given by Shakespeare to Petruchio in The Taming of the Shrew, included by Dr Percy in his Reliques (1765) and repeated by Oliver Goldsmith (1767). The musical version most familiar to Turner was probably that in the ballad-opera Merry Sherwood, with words by John O’Keefe and music by William Reeve, given at Covent Garden in the winter of 1795–6 and again as a benefit in 1800. A glee version, for two trebles and a bass, was published by John Callcott, elder brother of Turner’s future friend the painter Augustus Callcott, in 1796. Turner may have jotted down his own recollection of the words as he travelled. Some lines are first noted, rather shakily, in a kind of shorthand, then rewritten in full.

David Blayney Brown
December 2003

Read full Catalogue entry

You might like