Joseph Mallord William Turner

Verses (Inscriptions by Turner)


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Support: 180 × 107 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CXII

Catalogue entry

First transcribed by Finberg in the Inventory Turner’s poem reads:
Vacancy most fair but yesterday
Oer these pure leaves maintained her sway
Untill the pen did immolate
But with a stain inviolate
The spotless innocence retreats
From every leaf as fancy beats
Pure like the stream that pours
From April’s cloud the driving shower
Hope – still accompanys and sighs
Hope that with ever sparkling eyes
Looks on the yellow melting skies
Yet still with anxious pleasing care
Think (makes inserted) every leaf appears more fair
Delusion sweet thus tempts us on
Till all the leaves are like to one
Yet Hope looks back as heretofore
And smiling seems to say encore
(Written at Purley on the Thame[s]
rainy morning no fishing)
Turner is addressing his sketchbook, in Finberg’s words ‘apostrophising the fair leaves ... which “Delusion” tempts him to violate with his pen’.1 Apparently he is writing when he would rather be fishing. Purley, near Pangbourne, is far from this sketchbook’s usual Sussex territory and one wonders how factual or spontaneous Turner’s statement really is, especially as another version of the first six lines appears in the Greenwich sketchbook (Tate D06784; Turner Bequest CII 33), where they proceed to refer to Alexander Pope’s associate, Eliza Hayward. Folios 88–87 verso (D07851–D07850) of the present book have more verse inspired by a fruitless fishing expedition.

David Blayney Brown
June 2009

Finberg 1910, p.70.

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