Joseph William Turner, Melrose Abbey: Moonlight

The Manton Collection of British art, The Clark, New York

Date: c. 1822
Technique: Watercolour over pencil, 19.7 x 13.5 cm

Commissioned by Walter Fawkes to illustrate poems by Walter Scott.

If thou would’st view fair Melrose aright,
Go visit it by the pale moonlight;
For the gay beams of lightsome day
Gild, but to flout, the ruins grey.
When the broken arches are black in night,
And each shafted oriel glimmers white;
When the cold light’s uncertain shower
Streams on the ruin’d central tower;
When buttress and buttress, alternately,
Seem framed of ebon and ivory;
When silver edges the imagery,
And the scrolls that teach thee to live and die;
When distant Tweed is heard to rave,
And the owlet to hoot o’er the dead man’s grave,
Then go–but go alone the while–
Then view St. David’s ruin’d pile;
And, home returning, soothly swear,
Was never scene so sad and fair!

(Walter Scott - The Lay of the Last Minstrel – Canto II – I)


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