Thursday, November 10, 2005

Poetic Genius

Some poetry is good, some indifferent, some atrocious, and some so utterly dreadful that it falls into the ‘so bad it’s good’ category. To achieve the latter, it really has to be written by someone who is labouring under the misapprehension that the drivel they commit to paper is of true literary merit.

Britain’s best crap poet was undoubtedly the late William 'Topaz' McGonagall, poet and tragedian of Dundee. Visited by his muse quite late in life, McGonagall saw himself as a peer and equal of Tennyson and Longfellow. He was prolific in his output and produced many ‘poetic gems’, which he was fond of reciting in public houses in the Dundee area. That his poetic outpourings tended to produce hoots of derision, and the occasional pelting with fruit, from his audience did not dent his self confidence one iota.

Quoting the first and last stanzas of ‘The Tay Bridge Disaster’ is enough to give an impression of the kind of shite the man was fond of inflicting on his audiences:

‘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

It must have been an awful sight,
To witness in the dusky moonlight,
While the Storm Fiend did laugh, and angry did bray,
Along the Railway Bridge of the Silv’ry Tay,
I must now 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 by buttresses,
At least many sensible men confesses,
For the stronger we our houses do build,
The less chance we have of being killed.’

I suppose we shouldn’t mock too much; McGonagall was a decent enough sort, who suffered much from his delusions of grandeur. A group of students at Edinburgh University sent him a spoof letter, purporting to be from an Indian Prince, awarding him the title: ‘Sir William ‘Topaz’ McGonagall, Knight of the Order of the White Elephant of Burma’. McGonagall carried this title with pride until his death. He died in poverty and was buried in a pauper’s grave in Edinburgh.


MHN for short said...

sad isn't it??? How does one get published. i'd give it a go. :-)

Jane said...

Ah poor McGonagall. But he was truely dreadful.

However my brother when he was little was very into trains he knew "The Tay Bridge Disaster" off by heart.

Considering most poets, if honest, would sell their grandmothers to get a bit of recognition he must have been doing something right.

Jane said...
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S.I.D. said...

At least he had the balls to go write. You know you have made it when your buried penniless in a paupers grave.

garfer said...

Your brother was onto something Jane. McGonagall is indeed memorable, for all the wrong reasons.
His poetry was published as a joke.
I think he would have made a fine Poet Laureate. Shame he's not around.

Aginoth said...
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Aginoth said...

Still not as bad as Elizabeth Barrett Browning that is a pile of brown steaming stuff

garfer said...

Yes, a chronic hypocondriac and all round woose.

MHN for short said...

What did you study at university? You are so well read and articulate. <---That's a compliment. :-)

garfer said...

History and politics. A highly appropriate degree discipline for someone who liked drinking too much and getting up at noon.

MHN for short said...

I once thought of going into politics when I was younger. Now there is no honour in it.

Dave thinks I should go back to pursue creative writting. Who knows...

Herge Smith said...

Did he as well?

Herge Smith said...

Of course that comment should have read;

Did he USE as well?

But then I am a fuckhead.

Rowan said...

yup dellusions of grandeur.