J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner Verse: 'Discarded London...' (Inscription by Turner) c.1812-13

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Folio 17 Recto:
Verse: ‘Discarded London...’ (Inscription by Turner) c.1812–13
Turner Bequest CXXIX 17
Ink on white wove paper, 110 x 178 mm
Inscribed by Turner in ink (see main catalogue entry)
Trace of inscription by ?John Ruskin in red ink ‘17 [?]’ bottom right
Stamped in brown ‘CXXIX 17’ bottom right
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Written from left to right down the page, and continued on folio 18 recto of the sketchbook (D09079), Turner’s inscription reads:
Discarded London thou must now forgo
The praises of the great the very few
Amongst the many who delight to prate
To keep the chit chat of the tables round
Alive by nothingness yet talk of taste
Must thou depart so soon to quit
The splendour that thou helped to give
Displaced though friendship, victim to desire
And love of change that treading constant on
The Heel of talent goads it to the fate
Of all that toiled before down thoughts
That trouble but to see the placed unheedfull
Recreant against that wall which echoed oft
That blushed a higher glow ^as truth delights
So feels the breast that fears thy hapless charge
Like the once favourite fallen meet the eye
Of those who knew in thy lost estate
Shut the chil [?] eye, or bid the pliant tongue
Till [?Tell] all the misery thou knows thy self
Was once beloved respected honoured
Held high to make thy fall the greater
Envid[i]ous exultation shake the blast
That bears the bough ...ling[?] from earth
    or binding reeds
Alike when Winter undermines the root
And unembraced by earth of leaves told decay 1
This poem addresses a quite separate theme to the Howe-Phipps liaison that occupies Turner in the preceding drafts in this sketchbook; see especially notes to inside front cover (D40818). Here, Turner apostrophises London, apparently on a theme of the city’s decline, before digressing in a manner characteristic of his favourite eighteenth-century poem, James Thomson’s The Seasons, into a panegyric on winter and the return of spring. Thomson, however, generally manages to find his way back to his main theme. The poem looks to be an already rehearsed composition, or at least it contains relatively few variations and revisions, even if the sense is sometimes hard to fathom.
The transcription here is indebted to, but differs in some respects from that offered by Rosalind Mallord Turner in Wilton and Mallord Turner 1990.

David Hill
October 2008

How to cite

David Hill, ‘Verse: ‘Discarded London...’ (Inscription by Turner) c.1812–13 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, October 2008, in David Blayney Brown (ed.), J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours, Tate Research Publication, September 2014, https://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/jmw-turner/joseph-mallord-william-turner-verse-discarded-london-inscription-by-turner-r1146800, accessed 21 June 2024.