St Michael’s Mount Shipwreck of Lycidas / The Death of Lycidas—Vision on the Guarded Mount

Description: 

A ship is tipped towards the viewer, almost completely submerged by a wave crashing over it. Only the main mast, part of a second mast, and a sliver of the deck rise above the tumultuous water. Men climb up the mast, attempting to find shelter in the crow's nest. A single figure appears at the bottom of the image, his arms outstretched, threatened with complete submersion by the tumbling wave. At the top of the image a cliff rises out of the water, a church on its crest; a Christ-like figure stands in cruciform on its single tower, encompassed by a circle of light. At the level of the sloping ship, to the left of the image, an ambiguous darkness forms an opening in the crashing waters. What is perhaps a cave at the top of a waterfall is visible at the center of this dark culmination of waves.

Accession Number: 

Thordarson T 2187-2192

Provenance: 

John Macrone (publisher), 1809-1837: Macrone writes in the “Advertisement” of the first volume of The Poetical Works of John Milton that he took up the project of organizing notes on Milton and Milton’s works together; the artists and engravers came to his aid when he announced the project.

Height (in centimeters): 

12

Width (in centimeters): 

9

Marks Description: 

Along bottom left edge: "J.M.W. Turner; R.A."

Edition and State: 

Macrone (the publisher) inscribed a copy of The Poetical Works of John Milton for Charles Dickens as a wedding present in April, 1836, but it is unknown whether this was a new edition of the work (Patten).

Printing Context: 

This engraving served as the title page to the final volume (volume six) of The Poetical Works of John Milton (John Macrone, 1835).

Associated Events: 

This print depicts the sinking of the Lycidas, August 10, 1637. It was sailing from Chester to Ireland when it struck a rock near the English coast and sank. None of the people on board survived. John Milton wrote a poem about this shipwreck in honor of one of the victims, Mr. Edward King, a fellow of Christ’s College (Milton, vol. 6).

Associated People: 

John Milton (1608-1674)


This image is based on Milton's "Lycidas," written in honor of Mr. Edward King (1612-37).


William Wordsworth (1770-1850) and Robert Southey (1774-1843)


Both these poets had volumes of The Poetical Works of John Milton, the work containing this illustration, dedicated to them.

Associated Texts: 

"Advertisement" from volume six of Macrone's The Poetical Works of John Milton (1835):
To endeavour to remedy that which has been well denominated by the first literary authority in England, “a disgraceful defect in literature”—the want of such an edition, as, he flatters himself, the present will be found—to restore Milton’s lofty poems to their original purity; bringing them . . . within the comprehension of his humblest countryman, and at a price which will enable all to be possessed of them . . . that the publisher has been able to achieve all this, and bring the work to a triumphant close . . . will ever be to him a source of the proudest gratulation.
John Milton's “Lycidas” (1637):


A poem written by John Milton in memory of Edward King (1612-37).

Subject: 

This vignette of the Lycidas sinking off the coast of England illustrates the connection made between the sea and other realms of reality. It also portrays the sea as a violent force, its waves easily submerging the ship as the men aboard try to climb to safety.

Theme: 

Marine. Seascape. Shipwreck.

Significance: 

As in the case of the vignette The Temptation on the Mountain (also featured in this gallery), this image is balanced within a circular frame, reminiscent of images created using Claude mirrors. The visible mast gives the viewer a sense of scale, impressing us with the significant height of the waves and depth of the waters as the sea nearly submerges the entire ship. The sea is also implicitly presented here as a bridge to other worlds, whether it be the church on the heavenly heights or the obscure, darker place—the hellish depths—revealed to the left.

Bibliography: 

Patten, Robert L. "John Macrone." Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Ed. H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2004. Web. 1 Apr 2009.


The Poetical Works of John Milton. 6 vols. London: Macrone, 1835. Print.


Bénézit, E., et al. "William Miller." Benezit Dictionary of Artists. Vol 9. Paris: Gründ, 2006. Print.

Long Title: 

The Poetical Works of John Milton


By John Milton, Egerton Brydges, Joseph Mallord William Turner


Illustrated by Joseph Mallord William Turner


Published by John Macrone, 1835


Item notes: v. 6


Original from Harvard University


Digitized Jun 16, 2008
 
 

Engraver: 

 
 

Image Date: 

1835
 

Publisher: 

John Macrone
 

Creation Technique: 

 

Support Medium: 

 

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