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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner Verses (Inscription by Turner) c.1808-9

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Folio 13 Verso:
Verses (Inscription by Turner) circa 1808–9
Turner Bequest CII 13a
Inscribed by Turner in pencil and ink (see main catalogue entry) on white wove paper, 76 x 115 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
For the longer draft poems to which Turner’s verses belong, see Introduction to the sketchbook. Finberg did not transcribe the verses on this leaf and the reading given here was first made by Rosalind Mallord Turner for the 1990 Tate exhibition.
Two lines are written on the left of the leaf, running vertically, the rest across it:
O Spring with renovating fire
Snatch from Twickenham shore the tuneful reed
O Gentle Spring yet renovating fire
O take from Twickenham the w... reed
Alexis tuned now useless on the meed
To trip responsive cadence [silent inserted] to seasons lyre
Attuned to pastoral sweetness thy [harmonious Alexis reed inserted]
responsive Sisters oft to Thompson lyre
Responsive Season break in Thompson lyre
Thy soft Seasons round the Seasons lyre
varing in Pastoral sweets memory lead thy sighs
To Thomson rich harmonous lyre [the Season inserted]
Variants of these lines are given on folios 14 and 55 (D06747, D06828). All these passages anticipate stanzas published by Turner with his picture Thomson’s Aeolian Harp (Manchester Art Gallery)1 when he exhibited it at his Gallery in 1809:
Inspiring Spring! With renovating fire
Well pleas’d rebind those reeds Alexis play’d
And breathing balmy kisses to the lyre,
Give one soft note to lost Alexis shade
Throughout, James Thomson, poet of the Seasons (1730), is juxtaposed with Alexander Pope – ‘Alexis’ – and, likewise, Thomson’s poetic lyre with Pope’s reed. The lyre becomes an Aeolian harp on folio 55:
The Past[oral] reed and Eol[ian] harp unstrung
Is the harmony that [?friends made]

David Blayney Brown
March 2007

Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, pp.64–5 no.86 (pl.96).

How to cite

David Blayney Brown, ‘Verses (Inscription by Turner) c.1808–9 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, March 2007, in David Blayney Brown (ed.), J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours, Tate Research Publication, December 2012, https://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/jmw-turner/joseph-mallord-william-turner-verses-inscription-by-turner-r1130839, accessed 18 July 2024.