Sunday, May 4, 2014

Worst Verse Ever

There's been too much good poetry on this blog, what with Seamus Heaney and others. It's time for some real rubbish. And if that's what you seek, go no further than the great William Topaz McGonagall, poet and tragedian.


His most famous piece of garbled doggerel is "The Tay Bridge Disaster," a peerlessly-awkward eulogy to the 75 (not 90, as Willie says) passengers killed in December 1879 when said bridge collapsed under their train. 
The Tay Bridge Disaster
"Beautiful Railway Bridge of the Silv'ry Tay!
Alas! I am very sorry to say
That ninety lives have been taken away
On the last Sabbath day of 1879,
Which will be remember'd for a very long time...."

And, somewhat like the ill-fated train, it goes downhill from there. The conclusion ushers us into the nether regions of bardic awfulness.


"Oh! Ill-fated bridge of the silv'ry Tay,
I now must conclude my lay
By telling the world fearlessly without the least dismay,
That your central girders would not have given way,
At least many sensible men do say,
Had they been supported on each side with buttresses
At least many sensible men confesses,
For the stronger we our houses do build,
The less chance we have of being killed."


McGonagall was astonishingly obtuse when it came to assessing his own work. Of course, he was an ardent teetotaler, which may explain part of it. There's even a school of thought that implies his own connivance with the jeering public.
"Throughout his life McGonagall seemed oblivious to the general opinion of his poems, even when his audience were pelting him with eggs and vegetables. It is possible he was shrewder than he is given credit for, and played to his audience's perception of him." 

Or not. At least he attained fame, of a sort, and "unique" is an adjective that can readily be applied to the man and his work. 

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