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A Tale of Elsinore

William Topaz McGonagall 1825 – 1902 (Greyfriars Parish, Edinburgh)

A little child stood thinking, sorrowfully and ill at ease,
In a forest beneath the branches of the tall pine trees -
And his big brown eyes with tears seemed dim,
While one soft arm rested on a huge dog close by him.

And only four summers had passed o'er his baby head,
And, poor little child, his twin brother was dead,
Who had died but a few days before,
And now he must play alone, for he'd see him no more.

And for many generations 'tis said for a truth
That the eldest bairn of the Cronberg family died early in youth,
Owing to a curse that pursued them for many a day,
Because the Cronberg chief had carried a lovely maiden away,

That belonged, 'tis said, to the bold Viking chief,
And her aged mother could find no relief;
And she cursed the Cronberg family in accents wild,
For the loss of her darling, beautiful child.

So at last the little child crept back to its home,
And entered the silent nursery alone,
Where he knew since morning his twin brother had lain,
But, alas! they would never walk hand in hand again.

And, pausing breathless, he gazed into the darkened room,
And there he saw in the dark gloom
The aged Gudrun keeping her lonely watch o'er the dead,
Sad and forlorn at the head of the bed.

Then little Olaf sprang joyfully into the room,
And bounding upon the bed, not fearing the corpse in the gloom;
And crept close beside the white form,
That was wont to walk by his side night and morn.

And with his dimpled hands his brother he did stroke,
And with grief his little heart almost broke;
And he whispered in baby talk his brother's name,
But, alas! to him no answer came.

But his good old nurse let little Olaf be,
The more it was very sad to see;
But she could not check the child, nor on him frown,
And as she watched him, the tears came trickling down.

Then Olaf cried, "Oh, nursey, when will he speak again?"
And old Gudrun said, "My lamb,'tis all in vain,
He is singing sweet songs with the angels now,"
And kissed him fondly on cheek and brow.

And the same evening, Olaf wandered out on the green,
Which to him and his brother oft a playground had been;
And lying down on the messy bank, their old play place,
He fell asleep with a heavenly smile upon his face.

And as he slept if seemed to him an angel drew near,
And bending o'er him seemed to drop a tear,
And swept his closed eyes with her downy wing,
Then in whispers softly she did sing -

"Love God and be good to all, and one day
You'll meet your brother in Heaven in grand array,
On that bright and golden happy shore,
Where you and your brother shall part no more."

Then the angel kissed him and vanished away,
And Olaf started to his feet in great dismay;
Then he turned his eyes to Heaven, for his heart felt sore,
And from that day the house of Cronberg was cursed no more.

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Submitted on May 13, 2011

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William Topaz McGonagall

William Topaz McGonagall (March 1825 – 29 September 1902) was an Irish weaver, poet and actor who lived in Scotland. He won notoriety as an extremely bad poet who exhibited no recognition of, or concern for, his peers' opinions of his work. He wrote about 200 poems, including "The Tay Bridge Disaster" and "The Famous Tay Whale", which are widely regarded as some of the worst in English literature. Groups throughout Scotland engaged him to make recitations from his work, and contemporary descriptions of these performances indicate that many listeners were appreciating McGonagall's skill as a comic music hall character. Collections of his verse remain popular, with several volumes available today. McGonagall has been lampooned as the worst poet in British history. The chief criticisms are that he was deaf to poetic metaphor and unable to scan correctly. His only apparent understanding of poetry was his belief that it needed to rhyme. McGonagall's fame stems from the humorous effects these shortcomings are considered to generate in his work. Scholars argue that his inappropriate rhythms, weak vocabulary, and ill-advised imagery combine to make his work amongst the most unintentionally amusing dramatic poetry in the English language. His work is in a long tradition of narrative ballads and verse written and published about great events and tragedies, and widely circulated among the local population as handbills. In an age before radio and television, their voice was one way of communicating important news to an avid public. more…

All William Topaz McGonagall poems | William Topaz McGonagall Books

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    "A Tale of Elsinore" Poetry.com. STANDS4 LLC, 2021. Web. 14 Jun 2021. <https://www.poetry.com/poem/41767/a-tale-of-elsinore>.

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